Thursday 15 September 2011, 10:40AM
Run time: 102 minutes
Kevin James and talking animals – that really doesn’t seem like a particularly laborious screenwriting challenge.
Apparently though, even with five writers, it was. The result is that Zookeeper is a confused and directionless film that struggles to present itself as either the family comedy it promotes itself as, or the rom-com it so desperately tries to be.
More amusing than funny, the movie drags unnecessarily, trying to convince viewers that the human elements of the script have value when all anyone really wants to see is a talking gorilla in a polo shirt.
In Zookeeper, James is – no big surprise – a zookeeper. Also not surprisingly, he plays his trademark role of the lovable teddy bear with a big heart.
His character (Griffin) is stuck hopelessly in love with his former flame, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). A pretentious woman with expensive tastes, Stephanie looks to change Griffin to suit her needs, urging the zookeeper to rethink his vocation.
The animals at the zoo, unwilling to let their favourite keeper go, let Griffin in on a little secret – they can talk. They then proceed to offer him various species-specific courting advice.
It’s at precisely that point where any sense of normality or logic ends, as we embark on a series of bizarre and outlandish sketches that provide some flirting moments of entertainment, but ultimately fall into the flat and/or derivative basket, thanks to some mediocre scriptwriting.
Try picturing images of dancing while suspended from silk ribbons, or a trip to a bar with a depressed gorilla disguised as a man dressed in a gorilla suit, and you’ve got just a small taste.
In fact, some of these sketches are mildly amusing for their sheer quirkiness, and if the writers had really honed in on this, it might have fulfilled a little more of its potential.
Instead, Zookeeper aspires to be nothing more than a family film diversion. That in itself is no crime, but the tepid screenplay somehow forgets its target audience, wrongfully assuming that people would rather spend time with the character’s pathetic romantic fixations than with his daily work with the yappy animals.
And it is those yappy animals that are the only saving grace, voiced by some big name talent including Adam Sandler (as a monkey obsessed with poo slinging), Sylvester Stallone and Cher (married lions), Judd Apatow (as an elephant), Jon Favreau (a bear), and last but not least, Nick Nolte (as the depressed gorilla).
All the animals look real, because, with the exception of Nick Nolte’s gorilla, they are. While Nolte’s character really is just a man in a gorilla suit (making the aforementioned bar scene more plausible, though no less weird), the rest are real animals that have had their mouths CGI animated.
In the end the only ones who will really appreciate this bizarre, frenetic and confused slapstick rom-com are 8-12 year-olds – but that’s exactly who this movie has been made for.
As for adults, it will probably make you wish you’d stayed in the car, talking to the dog instead.
– Dane Halpin