ZOOKEEPER. Starring Kevin James, Rosario Dawson and Leslie Bibb. Directed by Franki Coraci. 102 minutes. Rated PG (Mild crude humour).
Older grandparents accompanying their grandchildren will remember the Francis the Talking Mule movies of the 1950s. Younger grandparents may remember Doctor Doolittle’s song, ‘Talk to the Animals’. Parents will remember all kinds of talking animals on the large and small screen. Here’s another one.
The littlest children may find the animals funny but there is a lot of plot concerning the Zookeeper himself and his pining over his former girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) while he has to learn to be satisfied in being his real self which will seem to them to be just marking time until the next funny bit. It may appeal most to primary school goers. Parents could enjoy it, but it is fairly basic comedy.
Kevin James made his name with the TV series, The King of Queens, and then came to the screen in Hitch, Paul Blart Mall Manager and Grown Ups. He is large, acknowledges this, and is not exactly your screen heartthrob. He plays to this image, plenty of pratfalls, plenty of accidents and a fair amount of mayhem.
The animals have obviously seen the Madagascar films and see Zookeeper as a great opportunity to become stars. They talk – although the code does not allow them to let humans know they can speak. But, they are grateful to Griffin the Zookeeper for helping them, especially against hard-hearted co-workers and obnoxious visitors to the zoo. When they reveal themselves to Griffin, they each try to help him to woo Stephanie again and make him look like a hero. The results are disastrous as each animal gets him to be like them: lions advising getting prey by themselves, the wolf advising his canine techniques for marking out territory (demonstrated and Griffin following suit), bears offering macho hints.
Griffin’s main friend is the lonely gorilla, Bernie, and a highlight of their being buddies is Griffin taking Bernie to TGI Friday’s and a boisterous night on the town. Bernie is also instrumental in helping Griffin propose to Kate (Rosario Dawson) his co-worker.
And, there are some amusing out-takes during the final credits.
The bonus in seeing the film, the voice talent: Nick Nolte is a doleful Bernie; Adam Sandler is the comic monkey (and his wife, Jackie, appears as the waitress in TGI Fridays); Sylvester Stallone is a rather cowardly lion with Cher as his wife; Jon Favreau and Faison Love are the bears and Maya Rudolph is Mollie the Camel while director Judd Appatow is Barry the elephant.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out September 8, 2011.