Zookeeper (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Zookeeper (2011)

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In sheer volume of unnecessary product, talking animal pictures have been at the bottom of the barrel since the inception of the motion picture.  Sure, you get a film like Babe every twenty years or so, but in the meantime you have to deal with Marmaduke, Gordy, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.  So I cringed a bit in preparation for Zookeeper and actually left happier than when I came in.

This is not at the level of a film like Babe, or even Homeward Bound, bit it's a pleasant enough piece of entertainment to while away a hot day.  Yes, there are a lot of stupid scenes that did make me groan in my seat out of sheer discomfort at what Kevin James is asked to do, but there's a genuine sweetness to the performances that help elevate it beyond your standard trash and into something different.  Its willingness to embrace the weirdness of its various scenarios doesn't hurt, and that's a quality I always respect.

A quick gander at the poster and you'll probably think that someone thought they could transpose Night At The Museum into a zoo, switch out Ben Stiller for Kevin James, and then call it a day.  To an extent you'd be right, the animals at the zoo gather together each night for a meeting and chat to each other in perfect English about what to do for poor Griffin (Kevin James).  He was dumped by his girlfriend five years ago during an idyllic proposal (during which James' breathy "Really?" in response to her rejection had me giggling quite a bit) and now he's trying to figure out how to get her back.

I hope for better films for everyone involved, but I love that Rosario Dawson has become one of those actresses that can bring more authenticity to any movie just by being in it.

Queue the animals, who accidentally reveal that they can talk during one of Griffin's late night visits.  So they set about teaching Griffin the ways of attracting a mate the only way they know how.  That is, a set of species and sex specific practices that make Griffin look completely insane.  But wouldn't ya know it, no matter how silly he looks he always has Kate (Rosario Dawson) to fall back to and she decides to help him get his fiancee back.

The plot is as predictable as a  package of ramen noodles but the specific events themselves veer from stupid to extremely weird and entertaining.  Take when Griffin is learning to be an alpha male from the bears.  He starts walking like a bear, a bit silly.  But then he starts snarling like a bear and it gets a little funnier.  Following the stance and vocal rumble he starts sticking his "muffin pouch" out for added emphasis.  By the time he is rubbing his back against a tree it's transcended "stupid" and become a strange and effective bit of physical comedy.

I enjoyed some of the subversive sexual elements at play in the film as well.  These would be the details "only adults" will probably notice but there's a gay bear couple and a creepily effective comedic performance from Ken Jeong as a bisexual snake handler.  Combine that with some of the more risque language at play in the script and I stand by my point from my analysis of Revenge of the Bridesmaids and say that some kids films (not all of them, but some) are becoming more and more distinguished by some fairly progressive politics.

Queue confused schoolchildren in 3...2...1...

No matter, if you just want to see Kevin James fall down a lot, you'll get that.  If you like a little bit of extra weirdness coming in at the right directions, you'll get that too.  Heck, even the romance between Griffin and Kate has a moment that's genuinely touching right before he takes to the air and crashes into a newly minted bride.  Ok, that part was pretty stupid.

But it works in spite of itself.  My only hope is that the next time Kevin James gets a script he'll just skip ahead to the part where he's dancing to a rap song and say, "The first time it was ok, the second was grating, and now it just looks like I'm being careless."  Well, he still is, but at least Zookeeper passes on the basest of levels and I left entertained.  That's far more than can be said of Marmaduke anyway.

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Zookeeper (2011)

Directed by Frank Coraci.
Screenplay by Nick Backay, Rock Rueben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, and David Ronn.
Starring Kevin James and Rosario Dawson.

Posted by Andrew

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