Friday, July 8, 2011


Kevin James plays the title character of Zookeeper, Griffin Keyes, the top beige-shirt at Boston’s Franklin Park menagerie. At the beginning, Griffin gets dumped by his shallow pill of a girlfriend (the human Barbie doll Leslie Bibb), who finds his career insufficient, and mopes around about it for five years, even though his veterinarian coworker (Rosario Dawson), who plainly likes him, is both lovelier & a nicer person.

Then Griffin gets another shot at the pill. His pals the animals don't want him to leave the zoo for a gig better suited to impressing the girl, nor do they think he’s up to winning her back. So they decide to resort to desperate measures, & reveal their big secret to him: they can talk—in the voices of such celebrities as Cher, Adam Sandler, Don Rickles, Sylvester Stallone, Maya Rudolph, etc. etc.—& they’re willing to coach him on how to court the woman successfully.

The wolf advises him, for instance, to mark his territory by urinating on it. The bears teach him to swagger & snort aggressively. The monkey (Sandler) keeps insisting that he should throw poop.

That, in much more detail than it deserves, is the premise of Zookeeper. It was just possible, I suppose, that something clever could have been done with it—that, for instance, we could have seen Griffin noticing human parallels to the behaviors suggested by the critters.

Not even close. Griffin just literally urinates, right out in the open, in a restaurant, or snorts bear-style in the face of his rival (Joe Rogan). This movie, directed by frequent Adam Sandler crony Frank Coraci, is every bit as imbecilic as it sounds, and maybe even more crass than it sounds—it includes what amounts to a lengthy commercial, as Griffiin takes a lonely gorilla (voiced by Nick Nolte) for an evening out at TGIFriday’s.

The idiocy wouldn’t matter, of course, if the movie was funny. I guess I chuckled at a couple of Rogan’s buffoonish lines, & the little monkey’s mincing upright gait gave me a grin. I should also say, in fairness, that I like James, with his fretful politeness, & while Zookeeper doesn’t serve him well, I liked him here too, & wanted him to get the girl—the adorable Dawson, that is. But none of this mitigates this movie’s squandering of the talents of those involved, & of the audience’s time. Zookeeper is what the monkey throws.

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