Tuesday, August 09, 2011

ZOOKEEPER - Tame and Predictable

ZOOKEEPER (fantasy comedy)
Cast: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg and Joe Rogan
Voices: Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Judd Apatow and Jon Favreau,
Director: Frank Coraci
Screenplay by Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick and David Ronn
Time: 101 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

Kevin James and Leslie Bibb in ZOOKEEPER

PREAMBLE: Looking at the list of writers of this movie, one is tempted to blame this clunky comedy on the number of cooks that spoiled the broth. The Dr Doolittle caper with talking zoo animals is meant to be a fun and hilarious entertainment for the family but the comedy is so strained and predictable that few would find it fun or funny.

Movies about talking critters are now a dime-a-dozen and here, the furry cast are not as riotious as those of, say, Madagascar.
Ken Jeong, James and Rosario Dawson

SYNOPSIS: Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) is a caretaker at the Franklin Park Zoo and the animals there adore him. However, when he gets a second chance at making it with his supermodel girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), he decides to quit his gritty zoo job for a more glamorous one. When they learn of his decision, the animals decide to break their time-honoured code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: they can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they each teach him their own rules of courtship - of the animal world.

HITS & MISSES: There wasn't much laughter at the media screening I attended. There may have been a few sniggers but I can remember many cringe-worthy moments when the film-makers try to sell us highly implausible scenarios, the chief of which is how a bumbling zoo guy can even get the attention of a hot and sociable model like Stephanie. I would gladly believe that animals can speak English than in that sort of mismatched relationship.

Things get better when the animals start talking. They are played by a formidable voice cast including Nick Nolte as a grouchy gorilla, Sylvester Stallone and Cher as a pair of bickering lions, and Adam Sandler as a cheeky monkey. I like the part where Griffin takes his gorilla friend Bernie for a night out at TGI Friday (above), and of course the plot-turn sequence of the wedding dinner where we get to confirm what we have been suspecting all along regarding Griffin's relationship with his veterinarian colleague Kate (Rosario Dawson).

Director Frank Coraci (Sandler's pal who made The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer) fails to further exploit the comedy of the chattering animals. Instead he goes for the clownish appeal of Ken Jeong (as a reptile care-giver) who never fails to overact his role.

THE LOWDOWN: I like James in the 2009 comedy, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, but he is just a caricature here.


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