DIRECTED BY: Frank Coraci
WRITTEN BY: Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
STARRING: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Nick Nolte
RATING: 2.5 stars
Zookeeper is being pitched to audiences in totally the wrong way. It is not a children's movie. It's more of a romantic comedy, albeit one that has talking zoo animals in it. The concept is ridiculous, but if you expect little from this film, you might actually enjoy it for what it really is – an endearing, light comedy.
Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) is a lovable zookeeper who has dedicated his life to helping animals. He is in love with Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) and proposes in a romantic beach setting only to have her reject his proposal due to his lowly-paid job. Five years later, Griffin has a second chance with Stephanie and enlists the help of the talking zoo animals who offer him advice such as aggression from the lions, marking his territory from the wolves and puffing out his throat from the frog. He takes the tactics so seriously that he marks his territory at his brother's wedding rehearsal dinner by peeing in a pot plant. Griffin also enlists the help of zoo vet Kate (Rosario Dawson) who pretends to be his date to make Stephanie jealous.
James is a likeable and unassuming actor. He doesn't have the range that other comedic actors have, like Robin Williams or Eddie Murphy, but he is funny enough to produce some good laughs and emotive enough with his facial expressions in moments of drama and embarrassment that viewers can't help but feel for the loveable, cuddly zookeeper. Dawson plays the straight role to balance out the comedy and does it well, while Donnie Wahlberg gives a good performance in his minor role as the zoo villain.
Meanwhile, the cast playing the zoo animals reads like a who's who of Hollywood. It includes Nick Nolte as the lonely gorilla, Sylvester Stallone and Cher as the lions, Adam Sandler as the hilarious monkey, Judd Apatow as an elephant, and Jon Favreau and Faizon Love as the bears. At times it seems like the film-makers tried too hard to give each actor their own funny moment on screen but they are entertaining enough that children and adults can all laugh along. Zookeeper is not a great film, but it provides enough laughs to entertain.