3 August 2011


Count the pricks...
It's easier to say what Zookeeper is not, than what it might actually be. To state the obvious, it's not a cross-generational laugh-a-minute family comedy that will, in years to come, be as fondly remembered as any classic kids' movie. But nor is it a zero-star, horribly depressing misery of a Kevin James vehicle. And to be frank, I haven't the energy to get mad about having watched it.

Following on from his unexpectedly successful breakout hit, Kevin James Is A Fat Man And He Falls Over Paul Blart- Mall Cop, Kevin James is cast as Griffin Keyes. That name isn't as much of a stretch as it is for us to believe that he once dated Leslie Bibb, who's snooty about his job as a zookeeper. Griffin considers quitting his job in order to get back with her, but the zoo animals aren't pleased. Indeed, they decide to reveal that they can talk, in order to give Griffin pro-tips on wooing his ex.

We know the kind of film that Zookeeper is. Does that plot sound like something that 8-year-olds are going to be interested in? Nope, it's the worst kind of family-oriented comedy- essentially a PG-13 movie that's too juvenile for that audience to be interested in. So instead, it's hocked to the PG crowd, but frankly, it's a little too juvenile for them too. The formula, as it was when James was called Paul Blart, is that our schlubby leading man pratfalls around his workplace in a way that should potentially be fatal.

When James is tasked with delivering comic dialogue, he's kind of left to his own devices. The film is underscripted, and several scenes are transparently left open for him to ad-lib. His delivery and the editing of those scenes see to that, but he's very clearly not gifted in improvisation. This leaves the script feeling almost fatally underwritten, and I'm saying that about the most basic of the films currently being pooped out by Hollywood. Elsewhere, the romantic angle is also problematic. The idea of Kevin James' character paired with a beautiful woman dates back as far as Hitch, when it was halfway endearing, but the issue in Zookeeper is that the "there all along" love interest is Rosario Dawson.

Kevin Smith made a similar pairing between her and Brian Anderson's Dante in Clerks II, one of my favourite films, but I'll defend that to the hilt, because the distinction here is that Griffin is a shithead. He's oblivious to the fact that Dawson's character Kate is a better catch only for the purpose of going after Leslie Bibb's character until the narrative's played out. They actually have dialogue together about how he's using her to get to the more shallow and obviously shitty character, and how that's fine. It's just frustrating to see an actress of Dawson's capabilities wasted in crap like this.

All of which seems peripheral when reviewing a film that features talking animals, but then the animals feel that way too. In any summary of the plot, you get to the fact that the animals can talk last, or else you find yourself moving backwards to explain what is a completely simple-minded yarn. And when they do play into the plot, you get treated to Griffin pissing in a pot plant at a party, because a wolf told him that women need men to mark their territory. Haw haw. It's handy that the animals are all voice by celebs, because Adam Sandler's role as a monkey reminds us how this is another of those films that Adam Sandler pushed through to keep his friends in work, a la Deuce Bigelow, Grandma's Boy or Grown-Ups.

On the positive side, and there is one, Nick Nolte gives it a pretty good effort, voicing a gorilla called Bernie. The stuff you see with him in the trailer wasn't particularly funny then, and nor is it in the film, if only because it takes place in the setting of the most crass and unfunny product placement. The idea of a gorilla having a night on the town would be just as funny if it weren't based solely in how great TGI Friday's is. But elsewhere in the film, I got more laughs from Bernie than from any of the other characters or situations going on.

Zookeeper is underwritten, overplayed, and happily, a box office flop. That's not the reason why I'm not ranting, because sometimes really bad films actually don't make money. But given how we already know the next big vehicle for Kevin James, an MMA comedy called Here Comes The Boom, is already in development for next summer, there's not a lot I can say about this one, except that it's too childish for most, it's too boring for kids, and for all of James' supposed inherent likeability and comedic talent, that's never really come through in any of his leading roles. Meh. Just meh.

Zookeeper is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Zookeeper, why not share your comments below? Paul Blart- Mall Cop didn't really piss me off either. It wasn't great, but it wasn't godawful either, and it made me chuckle more than this one anyway...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Adler Ng said...

oh, Kevin James... we can only hope for the best. great review.