"The idea of the protagonist using his love of animals and nature to learn about himself could have been interesting"
Talk about typecast actors. Kevin James is definitely one of them: holed up in his everlasting rendition of the fat, clumsy, uncool but soft hearted guy we’ve seen him portraying so often on the big screen, he now swims in it with confident ease.
Sure, the word ‘typecast’ is surely not one you would use to compliment an actor’s career - but James seems to have totally embraced it. Then again, why shouldn’t he, since playing versions upon versions of his favourite (and only) role, he’s completely in his element.? In Zookeeper, he reappears as Griffith Keyes, who is - guess what – a kind hearted, socially inept, unlucky in love zookeeper.
His girlfriend, the beautiful Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) breaks up with him right as he is getting down on one knee to propose to her on a beach. Heartbroken, he convinces himself he is not cool enough for her because he works in a zoo, and, though he loves his workplace, he starts to consider that maybe getting a more elegant job will turn his luck with the ladies. ?The zoo he works in is not an ordinary one, though: the animals talk and are eager to show their disappointment towards Griffith – he’s the best zookeeper they’ve ever had and they don’t want him to leave.? So, not only they start talking to him, but they also devise a plan for him to get his girlfriend back – he has to learn the ways of love from them. Comedy ensues, in a flurry of silly situations, misunderstandings and painful-looking incidents where Griffith repeatedly falls off from walls and cliffs. Instead of laughing, though, we cringe; and when Griffith’s rival Gale (Joe Rogan) tells him that “It’s gotta suck to be you”, we can’t help but agree.
The idea of the protagonist using his love of animals and nature to learn about himself could have been interesting, yet Zookeeper trivialises it far too much and it comes up as just empty, ridiculous and rather cheap attempts at an easy comedy. Griffith doesn’t translate his furry friends’ teachings into acceptable human interactions; he just imitates them, literally finding himself peeing against a wall at an elegant dinner reception and howling like a maniac. Even his orang-utan friend is more dignified when he goes out in the town pretending to be human. ?If the producers were trying to get us to feel sorry for Griffith, they manage to; however, such premises make the rest of the story very hard to believe – Griffith ends up with two beautiful ladies chasing him (Bibb and Rosario Dawson, who plays Kate), and the only reason we can think of is that they must be mental, too.
Storyline aside, the movie features some very good CGI effects which render the animals’ expressions almost flawlessly real, and the cast boasts the illustrious names of Cher, Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte and Adam Sandler who provide the voices for the zoo’s four legged guests. Yet, none of this can make up for an uninteresting and largely unbelievable plot, and a script which fails to provide good comedic moments, opting for childish and inane rather than cleverly funny storytelling. ?But we’re not surprised – and, we’re sure, neither is Kevin James.