July 9, 2011
Review - " Zookeeper " - (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Frank Coraci
Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken
Jeong, Voice of Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, Cher, Sylvester
Stalone, Jon Favreau, Judd Apatow
In "Zookeeper", Kevin James gives one of the greatest
performances of his career as Griffin Keyes who is, you
probably guessed, a zookeeper. Poor Griffin asks
Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) to marry him, but she rejects his
proposal because she's embarrassed that he's a
zookeeper. Five years pass and Griffin is still a zookeeper
when he runs into Stephanie again and begins his quest to
win her back. However, when part of that quest involves
possibly getting a flashier new job at a car dealership, the
animals of Franklin Park Zoo band together and reveal to
Griffin that they can talk in an effort to keep him from
leaving. To get him to stay, they decide to teach him how to
win the girl.
One of the things that makes "Zookeeper" so wonderful is
that Griffin talks to all the animals. So it's not just the
monkeys and the birds, but the so-called deadly animals,
like bears and lions. This is the amazing power of speech.
Once an animal has it, he no longer wants to eat you. I so
wish this had worked for that guy in "Grizzly Man".
There is some amazing talent voicing the animals at the
zoo. Adam Sandler is Donald the Monkey, Nick Nolte is
Bernie the Gorilla, Sylvester Stallone is Joe the Lion, Cher
is Janet the Lioness, Jon Favreau is Jerome the Bear, and
Judd Apatow is Barry the Elephant. I can't imagine who
convinced all these great actors and directors to participate
in this movie, but it's truly awe-inspiring when people like
this work together. It's kind of like "The Magnificent Seven"
of casting, except there are more than seven great actors in the film. They have the kind of chemistry usually reserved for
voice actors in a Pixar movie.
It's the human voices behind the animals that really bring them to life, especially a wired little monkey voiced by Adam
Sandler and an emotionally distraught gorilla voiced by Nick Nolte. But Maya Rudolph as a giraffe, Sylvester Stallone as a
lion, and Bas Rutten as a wolf lend their talents, helping to carry the film with their energy and distinct personalities.
Nolte's gorilla, in fact, makes for an interesting subplot. A metaphorical reflection of Griffin, Bernie simply cannot escape the
past. He lives haunted by an incident with a violent zoo employee that has led to his depression and isolation. But like
Griffin, he eventually moves on from his personal prison and experiences redemption. Both characters refuse to continue
living in pain; they move forward to find hope, love, and life. Such optimism, rare in movies today, may be dismissed as
sentimental cheese, but it's really a breath of fresh air. It makes the film's flaws—the predictable plot, unimaginative jokes,
sappiness—both forgivable and somewhat enjoyable.
Something all of us should remember: if zoo animals can see the best in us, shouldn't we be able to see and appreciate the
best in each other? It's obvious that zoo animals have a lot to teach us and although the last time I tried to ask one what it
thought, security threw me out of the zoo, I intend to try again. After all, if zoo animals can really talk, somebody needs to be
there to hear them. We keep seeing these talking animal films, so I think there's something to it. Filmmakers appear to know
something we don't.
During the course of trying to win back Stephanie, one of the pieces of advice Griffin gets is that in order to win a hot girl,
you should be seen with another hot girl. Personally, I don't think this is a great piece of advice. Lucky for Griffin, he works
with just the right hot girl,
Kate (Rosario Dawson).
Since Kate already works at
the zoo, she has absolutely
no qualms about
Griffin, so why Griffin doesn't
recognize that he'd be better
off with Kate is anybody's
guess. Of course, eventually
he does, which is nice. I
always like when I can see
things coming from a mile
away in a movie because
predictability calms me and
makes me feel warm and
Yes, Zookeeper is silly,
however not as silly as I
expected, and the film's heart
and physical comedy make it