Nobody puts Judge Patrick Naugle in a cage. (He gave up the kinky stuff years ago.)
Our review of Zookeeper, published October 5th, 2011, is also available.
Don't talk to the animals…unless they talk to you first!
The Adam Sandler movie factory strikes again. Churning out such mediocre fare as Bucky Larson: Born to be Star, Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, and The Benchwarmers (among many other Walmart $5 bin titles), Sandler's producing efforts have now spewed forth a new Kevin James vehicle. Starring a lot of famous people making a lot of dirty money, Zookeeper makes its way onto Blu-ray care of Sony Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Griffin Keyes (Kevin James, The Dilemma) is the head of Franklin Park Zoo where he takes care of an assortment of animals he deeply cares for. Griffin had his heart broken five years ago when he proposed to his then girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb, Iron Man), and was rejected on a beach surrounded by a horse and a mariachi band (don't ask). When Stephanie reappears in Griffin's life, he decides to begin changing who he is to win back her affections…with the help of his zoo's animal community! You see, the animals break their "code" and decide to talk to Griffin so they can help him before a jealous suitor (Joe Rogan, Newsradio) swoops in and takes her away!
I don't understand why Kevin James is starring in a movie like Zookeeper. The guy has scored enough success to call his own shots. He could be making quality movies that don't pander to the lowest common denominator. And yet, here he is in all his slapstick glory playing opposite a talking gorilla. Talk about one step forward and two steps back.
I disliked this movie. Actually, "dislike" isn't the right word. I didn't actively hate Zookeeper, I just found it to be one big bowl of cinematic oatmeal…plain and 100% boring. Columbia Pictures invested millions of dollars in actors, sets, animals, catering trucks, and special effects, to bring a $7.48 screenplay to life. If a talking animal movie like Babe is a two hundred year old glass of finely aged scotch, Zookeeper is a 79 cent Big Gulp.
How does one critique a movie about a zoo full of talking animals that helps a fat man win over a woman who looks like a supermodel? Let's be honest: Was there really any correct way to make Zookeeper without it sinking like a stone? Probably not. The animals all have funny voices because, you know, if animals talked they'd all be zany comedians who know everything about the outside world, human love, and pop culture, even though they've spent their whole lives in a cage. Unsurprisingly, a lot of famous folks voice these animals—Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Maya Rudolph, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Don Rickles—and not one of them was able to make me laugh. How do you have this much talent at your fingertips and create a movie about as gut busting as a rice cake?
Kevin James does yeoman's work here, as he falls down, makes funny faces, swings on ropes, and falls over giant tractor tires, all to make the audience crack up. I look at James and often think to myself, "You know, this guy would be great if he had good material behind him." Sadly, he rarely does. When the peak of your career is a film entitled Paul Blart: Mall Cop, you know your trajectory is not going in the right direction. You get the feeling that Sandler, James, and other crew members are all good buddies who love working together. It's just a shame what they produce isn't half as endearing as their real life friendships.
Essentially, Zookeeper is the animal kingdom version of Hitch, with James playing a variation on his character from that movie. He's trying to fall in love with a woman and needs help; enter the animals, substituting for Will Smith, to offer him romantic advice. None of this is particular amusing or even interesting. The whole time Griffin is fawning over Leslie Bibb, there's another woman in the wings helping him out who is funny, beautiful, and loves him just as he is. If you don't know how this will end, then a) you've never been to the movies, or b) you're a walking, talking brain dead vegetable.
Look, there's no way around it. Zookeeper sucks. Director Frank Coraci (who also helped create the equally cruddy The Waterboy) throws a lot of crap at the screen hoping some of it will stick…and almost none of it does. This is sloppily written and its lazy comedy consists of Adam Sandler doing a funny voice for a monkey and Kevin James falling down. Har-har-har. If that's all you need out of a movie, by all means plop down your hard earned cash for this stinker. I prefer comedy with substance, wit, and intelligence.
You'll notice I didn't mention Rosario Dawson—who is also in this movie—and for good reason. I really hope she did something worthwhile with her paycheck, like give it to cancer research or burned it behind a barn.
Zookeeper is presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition. Putting aside my thoughts on the content of the movie, I must say Sony has done a very nice job with the transfer. Many scenes take place in brightly lit spaces and the zoo practically pops off the screen. There are a lot of deep blues and greens and the night scenes are sufficiently dark without being overpowering. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and, much like the picture quality, the audio is excellent with a lot of deep bass and ambient surrounds during the zoo scenes. Although this isn't the most aggressive track (much of the mix tends to be front heavy when the animals aren't onscreen), it gets the job done. You'll also find alternate DTS-HD 5.1 tracks in English and Spanish, alongside English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Zookeeper includes an array of standard bonus features including some deleted scenes, "Laughing is Contagious" featurette (with flubs by the actors), "Bernie the Gorilla" (which includes a look at the gorilla costume), "The Cast of Zookeeper" featurette (focusing on the cast and their roles), "Creating the Visual Effects" featurette (a look at—duh—the special effects in the film), "Behind the Stunts" featurette (okay, at this point I'm just stating the obvious), "The Furry Co-Stars" faeturette (by this point let's say this featurette is about, oh, maybe 17th century metallurgy?), "By The Bear" (Bears! Bears! Bears! Lions! No wait, Bears!), and previews for other Sony movies.
Zookeeper is the kind of movie that makes me die a little bit inside. It's junk food cinema that won't be remembered the day after you see it. So much effort has been put into something that became so little. Sony's work on this Blu-ray is very good, though I realize that's small consolation to Sandler haters.
Zookeeper needs to be shoveled up and thrown out with the rest of the elephant droppings.
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