Kevin James has at least one project set in New York that I always found him very funny in and ZOOKEEPER isn’t it. The chubby but loveable husband from King of Queens always manages to make me laugh in all of his movies, although his filmography is lacking in that one movie everyone can point at and confidently say it was one of his best. ZOOKEEPER is very far from being an all time classic by any standards, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t find moments of it to be enjoyable.
Griffin (Kevin James) is a lead zookeeper in New York that truly loves his job working with animals; so much that it chased away his girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). Five years after Stephanie sent him crashing and burning from a marriage proposal she returns as Griffin’s brother is getting married. Griffin becomes determined to get her back and threatens to leave the zoo to be more of who Stephanie wants him to be. The animals, love Griffin and rally together to come up with another way for him to get Stephanie back so that he stays with them as their zookeeper.
First and foremost let me get it out of the way that I would never call ZOOKEEPER a great movie. Under most circumstances I would be hard pressed to call ZOOKEEPER a “good” movie, but with the right expectations I do think it’s possible to go in and come out not feeling cheated or angry. This is a film designed for a younger audience, but with a lot of jokes that might be a litter too mature or inappropriate for them. The story itself is very simple and easy for the little ones to grasp, which might lend to its dismissal from the elder crowd.
I happen to really like Kevin James, despite his very weak movie choices and I’m always hopeful he will elevate everything to at least get a light chuckle out of me. I’m not ashamed to say I did life quite a bit here and a little less happy that it wasn’t all because of Kevin James. I really liked a select few of the animals and their voice acting counterparts along with some of Kevin James comedic moments. I still feel there’s more bad than good as far as both goes, but because my expectations were low I was able to squeeze out every ounce of entertainment that I possibly could.
Speaking of voice actors; there is an impressive amount of talent behind the animals, none of them written all that well. ZOOKEEPER is full of gags that try a little too hard to make you laugh and while I will admit I laughed quite a bit, none of them came close to making me laugh out loud. Much of the comedy just brought out a chuckle and maybe just a few genuine laughs. The film just reaches way beyond the realm of reasonable absurdity especially when Kevin James is peeing on a plant in a public restaurant all because a wolf told him it would work to get a girl. This is absurd on several levels, one being a living thinking person thinking that this is ok and would work, two being he got caught and the employee not only wasn’t upset but he wasn’t even asked to leave; he simply points out that there is a restroom, implying fancy restaurants allow for one public urination offense and won’t give you much guff about it.
ZOOKEEPER has many other examples of how far it expects the audience to suspend their disbelief. Once or twice is forgivable, but over an hour of them is the sign of a one trick pony that just isn’t that creative or interesting. I will admit that for me ZOOKEEPER wasn’t a complete waste of time since I was able to get some laughs from it. If you tiptoe in with extremely low expectations and with no hope that it’s going to split your sides you might leave ok with it if not semi pleasantly surprised. If you have low expectations, hate Kevin James and talking animals then I see no other outcome than pure hatred. In the end, ZOOKEEPER is a mixture of live action MADAGASCAR, DR. DOOLITTLE and PAUL BLART MALL COP. With a better script with some sharper and more consistent jokes it could have been much better than it is. I can’t fully recommend ZOOKEEPER to anyone and keep a clear conscience, but I believe kids will enjoy this and the parents I believe will be extremely hit and miss.