Jungle
Zookeeper
BOTTOM LINE:

In part to a boring and unfunny final half, Zookeeper finds itself with little to keep parents happy and children interested.

Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) is the world's best zookeeper. He doesn't know much else besides what makes animals happy. Even so much that he doesn't know how to make himself happy. After having his marriage proposal shot down by his longtime girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), Griffin allows himself to fully dedicate himself to the Zoo and the animals, which results in him becoming the head zookeeper. Three years later when Stephanie makes a chance encounter with him, Griffin realizes he must leave the zoo in order to be the man of her dreams. Someone needs to talk him out of it. Griffin just didn't expect that someone to be the animals of his zoo. 

The animals band together and realize, without the support and love of Griffin, they'd be lost without him. Thus, they decide to reveal their secret to him: They can speak. Once Griffin grows accustom to this strange event (it doesn't take but 2 seconds), the animals decide they, being the most knowledgeable in the category of mating, will show him how to attract Stephanie. Joe the Lion (Sylvester Stallone) and Janet the Lioness' (Cher) constant bickering doesn't help Griffin much, giving room for the bears, Jerome (Jon Favreau) and Bruce (Faizon Love) and Sebastian the Wolf (Bas Rutten) to give their advice on how they attract their mates. As time passes, Griffin puts these lessons to the test, but finds that maybe changing yourself for someone isn't what love really is. 

For the first half, Zookeeper is surprisingly enjoyable. Not great, but enjoyable. The humor is apparent and not only relied on the fact that the animals can speak. Of course, letting comedic actors like Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Faizon Love and Jon Favreau was a pretty great factor. The attempts of helping Griffin find his mojo grows stale almost immediately. Opening with the mating traditions of Bruce and Jerome was a bad move on the Director, Frank Coraci's, part, seeing as it was undeniably the funniest segment in the movie. There's something about Favreau and Love voicing bears and fighting over who has more luck with the ladies that just wins over my heart. Unfortunately, this is the only scene that injects any real humor in the mix. 

Zookeeper's final half finds itself in an unfunny and monotonous rut, as it's riddled with surprisingly dark subtext that no character, actor or director in the film know how to handle. Even the children seemed to not care about what Griffin was going through. The final half almost leaves the animals out completely, minus the relationship between Griffin and Bernie the Gorilla (Nick Nolte). This is a huge flaw for the film as the key interest and only existing sense of joy comes from the animals. Kevin James just isn't as charming and likable as he once was. His passion getting in the way of his love-life is almost an exact replica of his other lead role film, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Another main flaw lies in the non-existant chemistry between Griffin and Kate (Rosario Dawson). It's a romance that seems forced and in no way is organic. All of these flaws would be overlooked by children if the animals were focused on, but the focus is so heavy on Griffin's relationships that it may be the only thing kids would notice. 

In part to a boring and unfunny final half, How Paul Blart Got His Groove Back, I mean, Zookeeper finds itself with little to keep parents happy and children interested. Now if only Bruce and Jerome got their own feature film. 

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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