Some fun monkey business in Zookeeper
Kevin James’ lovable palooka persona has saved a number of his films, and “Zookeeper” depends a lot on the actor’s charisma—not to mention his willingness to sacrifice his body for innumerable pratfalls—but there’s more than that to like in his latest silly, but occasionally very funny comedy.
If you can overlook the “Night at the Museum-meets-Mall Cop” premise that is more contrived than even most Adam Sandler-produced comedies, it’s easier to enjoy the fairly inspired cast members who voice the animal characters.
James portrays Griffin, a zookeeper at Boston’s inner-city Franklin Zoo who is trying to get his mojo back after having been rebuffed by girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb).
Now five years on, a group of animals that appreciates Griffin’s gentle caretaking decides to break the “no talking to humans” code and help its beloved zookeeper win back his lost love—even though she looks down on his profession.
Along for the ride is Rosario Dawson as Griffin’s fellow zookeeper, who may like Griffin more than either of them realizes. The only animal in a monkey suit (literally) is voiced by Nick Nolte, who has some of the movie’s best moments as the gorilla Bernie when he hangs out with Griffin for a night of goofy buddy shenanigans at the local T.G.I.Friday’s.
The rest of the animal characters are shot in their natural form, except for CGI-aided mouthing, and they provide the majority of the belly laughs. The odd but entertaining mix includes the voices of Cher and Sly Stallone, (as a lion and his lioness), Jon Favreau and Faizon Love (as bickering bears), Maya Rudolph (giraffe), Judd Apatow (elephant), and Sandler himself (monkey).
Sure, the plot is predictable. And, as usual, actor Ken Jeong has far too much screen time. (Who thinks this guy is funny, anyway?).
But “Zookeeper” doesn’t belabor its punch lines and it maximizes James’ likeability to a mostly winning result.
“Zookeeper” is a rare film that is actually funnier that its trailer implies. You can’t say that about many films these days.
Rated PG for some rude and suggestive humor and language.