Director: Frank Coraci | 101 minutes | comedy, family, romance | Actors: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe Rogan, Nat Faxon, Steffiana De La Cruz, Nick Bakay, Jackie Sandler, Nicholas Turturro, Thomas Gottschalk, Brandon Keener, Robin Bakay, Nicole Trychon, Tanner Blaze, Tim Gage, Gino Falsetto, Etienne Deneault, Katrina Begin, Matthew R. Staley
Although the statement is not based on actual research, it may be assumed that the majority of zoo visitors consists of families with children or at least school-aged youth. The target group of family film ‘Zookeeper’ clearly overlaps with that demographic market: parents with children from the age of eight or younger, if they can already read the subtitles. Fathers and mothers who are looking for an alternative to a 3D film or animation film to watch with their offspring will please their offspring with ‘Zookeeper’. If you don’t have a son, daughter, nephew, niece or other minor to please, you have nothing to look for at ‘Zookeeper’.
The run-up to ‘Zookeeper’ is somewhat reminiscent of ‘Just Go With It’, not entirely coincidentally also a Happy Madison production, because just like that film ‘Zookeeper’ opens with a scene in which the life of the main character takes a slightly different turn. what he expects. The somewhat silly Griffin (Kevin James) asks his beautiful girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) to marry him in an incredibly romantic and inventive way, but she flatly refuses. Griffin never got over that shock and still tells his story almost daily to his only audience, the animals in the Franklin Park Zoo, where he works as a keeper. Of course he thinks they don’t understand, but nothing could be further from the truth. When Stephanie suddenly reappears, the animals think Griffin has a chance with her. Provided he doesn’t behave so clumsily, of course. After a meeting, the animals decide to violate their code of honor: to help Griffin, they must reveal their greatest secret – that they can talk. Once Griffin gets over the shock, he gratefully accepts their help. That results in some funny, but often also cringe-worthy situations (with Kevin James peeing over a wolf as the low point).
You won’t get much more straightforward than the plot of ‘Zookeeper’. Adult viewers will already realize after a few minutes how the film (read: with whom the main character) will end. But that hardly needs to hinder viewing pleasure. The actors are well on their way: Kevin James acts controlled for himself. It’s easy to empathize with him. Rosario Dawson is – as always – a welcome addition to the cast and has some fun scenes at Griffin’s brother’s wedding party. Leslie Bibb also does more than just provide eye candy. She is very convincing as an empty-headed model, for whom a filled bank account is more important than a happy husband, who pretends to be no different than he is. The talking animals – by the way very professionally rendered – are really only fun for the younger viewers, Admittedly, it is quite funny to hear Cher and Sylvester Stallone as a lion couple, but the new thing is soon over. Maya Rudolph as a giraffe is only irritating, as is Adam Sandler as a monkey. Nice is the special bond Griffin has with the gorilla Bernie (voice of Nick Nolte), who of course also plays a crucial role in the denouement of the story.
‘Zookeeper’ excels in nothing, not in originality, not in creativity and certainly not in hilarity. But watch it with the right attitude (or rather: mentality) and in the company of the intended target group (pre-puberty) and you have a nice pastime, in which the moral to always be yourself never becomes boring and the language use less what is shouted on an average schoolyard is violent. Best to do. Although quality time with your child is still preferable by visiting a real zoo. That is really fun for all ages.