Review: “Zookeeper” is almost un-bear-able

July 10th, 2011 at 7:52 am by under Entertainment

I’m not just being clever to say that “Zookeeper” is almost un-bear-able, because this movie is not only inconsistently entertaining, it suffers from an identity crisis, and leaves me with several issues for the filmmakers.  There are so many hard working families out there that I would hate to see you waste your time and money on a movie like this .. one that barely entertains kids … or adults.

You won’t be missing anything by waiting to rent this movie, or skipping it completely.  There were a bunch of families with kids at my screening but  there was not a significant amount of laughing, joy, wonder, and excitement from the kids like I saw during recent screenings like “Kung Fu Panda 2″  or “Rango”.

"Zookeeper" poster courtesy MGM / Columbia Pictures

 

 (My spoiler-free review)

I like Kevin James… I like animals… I like the zoo… I even like TGI Fridays (on occasion)… but the way they are combined in this movie is a little ridiculous.

The biggest question is … who is this movie for?  Adults or kids?

“Zookeeper” is cute, but ultumately falls short of enough fun for kids and entertainment for adults.   The relationship and career stuff for main character Griffin (James) is way over the kids’ heads… its needs needs more scenes with the animals and silly/zany/goofy  business to keep the kids interested.

There are several fun scenes with the animals … but even if they are mostly physical comedy and bathroom humor… there are not enough of those scenes to keep the movie afloat.   The kids will like the talking animals and the short bursts of physical comedy – James does a lot of running and falling down and making goofy faces, acting like animals both at the zoo and outside of it.   But the movie is really just mildly funny.

The main zoo character – Bernie the Gorilla – is somewhat of a distraction – his costume doesn’t really even look real… all the other animals are real… why not just use a real Gorilla with CGI to move his mouth like you did with some of the other animals??  Or don’t try to hide it for soo long that its a guy in a suit… starting with camera shots with his back to us or far away from the camera … just let us accept it early and get it over with that its a guy in a mechanical suit… and its goofy, but don’t try to slide it by as real.   There’s another scene where a fake animal stands in for a real one and its so contrived that its hard to even crack a smile at it.

A lot of the jokes are just pure ridiculous … mostly involving Bernie the Gorilla… and especially the scenes at TGI Fridays.  There are some real laughs sprinkled through, but it needs more zany, goofy and more scenes with the animals to keep kids entertained… and the adults with them able to accept such a poor piece of filmmaking.

Its sad because James’ wife (Steffiana De La Cruz) plays Robin (his soon-to-be sister-in-law) in the movie and his kids were in a scene in an early version of the movie…  but this family affair is anything but for your family.

The story has a lot of holes in it too… I know… its a family movie… but  there are a lot of holes in the plot as well:  like why doesn’t he go to his brother‘s wedding – and just the reception?  why is one porcupine quill barbed while another isn’t?  where did a Gorilla learn to drive?

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I give it 4.0 out of 10 … it reminds me of another family comedy with an actor surrounded by animals that just didn’t work either: “Furry Vengeance”… its sad that moms and dads have to sit through so many of these sub-par movies just because they are aimed at kids. 

Luckily we get enough quality family movies like the “Toy Story”, “Shrek”, and “Kung Fu Panda” franchises, plus “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, “Despicable Me”, “How To Train Your Dragon”, “The Incredibles”, “Up”, and “Wall-E” to keep the genre going.  Please rent any of those movies (and about a dozen others) before seeing *this* one!!

"Zookeeper" photo courtesy MGM / Columbia Pictures

 “Zookeeper”

(2011) (rated: PG for some rude and suggestive humor, and language)
(1 hr, 44 min)

Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe Rogan, Nat Faxon, Steffiana De La Cruz, Nick Bakay, Nicholas Turturro, Nick Nolte (voice of Bernie the Gorilla),  Adam Sandler (voice of Donald the Monkey), Sylvester Stallone (voice of Joe the Lion), Cher (voice of Janet the Lioness), Judd Apatow (voice of Barry the Elephant), Jon Favreau (voice of Jerome the Bear), Faizon Love (voice of Bruce the Bear), Maya Rudolph (voice of Mollie the Giraffe), Bas Rutten (voice of Sebastian the Wolf), Don Rickles (voice of Frog), Jim Breuer (voice of Crow)

Director: Frank Coraci ["Click" (2006), "The Waterboy" (1998), "The Wedding Singer" (1998)]
Writers: Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, David Ronn

Genre: Family Comedy

The Plot: A group of zoo animals decide to break their code of silence in order to help their lovable zookeeper find love — without opting to leave his current job for something more illustrious. woman.

So what did you think?  Please post a comment!

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“Zookeeper” poster and photo courtesy MGM / Columbia Pictures

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