Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
ZOOKEEPER MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: Frank Coraci
Running time: 104 min.
Release date: July 8, 2011
Genre: Comedy, Romance and Family
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG
Actor/writer Kevin James, who is known for his television sitcom "King of Queens", an off-shoot of the "Everyone Loves Raymond" series, has proved himself as a silver screen lead character. From his past films of I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, he has shown he has "chops".
In his new film Zookeeper, Kevin James plays zookeeper Griffin Keyes who has lost his self-confidence towards women after being dumped by his materialistic girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). Griffin has a special bond with the animals at the Franklin Zoo of Boston, yet he is still a lonely man. Kevin James' co-star is Rosario Dawson as Kate, a veterinarian and eagle expert who harbors an unknowing secret crush on Griffin. To impress his ex-girlfriend Stephanie, Griffin decides that a more prestigious job may be the key to rekindle his relationship with her. It seems Griffin has to compete for Stephanie's affection with an alpha male dating her named Gale (Joe Rogan). However, when his animal friends get word that he is leaving his animal husbandry position, they realize the only way to keep him around is to reveal that they can speak. The animals; Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Joe the Lion, Nick Nolte as the voice of Bernie the Gorilla, Adam Sandler as the voice of Donald the Capuchin Monkey, Don Rickles as the voice of Jim the Frog, Judd Apatow as the voice of Barry the Elephant, Cher as the voice of Janet the Lioness, Jon Favreau and Faizon Love as the voices of Jerome and Bruce the Grizzly Bears, Maya Rudolph as the voice of Mollie the Giraffe, Bas Rutten as the voice of Sebastian the Wolf, and Richie Minervini as the voice of Elmo the Ostrich give advice on dating in the hope he gets the girl of his dreams and keeps the job his loves as zookeeper.
Romance is the sub-genre in this comedy. It consist of the affairs of the heart that center on passion, emotion, and affectionate involvement of the main characters. In this case, the love affair is between Griffin and Stephanie with Kate as the wing woman. The humor comes from the journey that their love takes them through with advice from zoo animals whose mating rituals are far from what humans would consider.
In a cast press conference, Kevin James said, "As we were writing the screenplay, we started working with how funny the animals could be, and that was exciting." However, he also said, "At first I did not want to do an animal movie, but my producer convinced me it would be a buddy movie....like talking to Adam, Judd and Jon." Kevin found excitement because "It also felt like it was of the Cyrano story (a really rich story)......that blends in very nicely (outside the animal story)." It can be a challenge, acting opposite an animatronic gorilla, Kevin James said.
Leslie Bibb has a few scenes with the animals but said, "It was like Noah Ark opening up. They come out and you can pet them and you can feed them bananas. Rosie the elephant, is a really sweet girl - so beautiful, so big, and so smart. I think Crystal the monkey is going to steal the whole movie. She's incredible. But the bears are amazing too."
Rosario Dawson said, "I love the script. I enjoyed playing the wing woman, meeting Cher at the premiere.....doing comedy. It was a great venture for me, because I never did comedy.....except for Josie and the Pussycats which is really a musical." She added, "I was connected with the animals. I was fascinated with the eagle...so regal."
I was amazed with the visual effects and how they devised optical splits and composites to have the film display lions right next to the bears, elephants, and giraffes. The scenes looked so natural as the animals interacted with the human world.
The plot is light-hearted consistently and deliberately designed to bring out laughter by exaggerating situations, language, action, relationships and characters. Yet, the fantasy of talking animals is distinct and adds an extraordinary element, as it transcended the bounds of human possibility.
Zookeeper is a film that will appeal to both children and adults.
FILM RATING (B)