08 July 2011| No Comments on Zookeeper     by Sean Chavel


Narrow margin recommendation as a goofy family film or for those who find the schlub humor of Kevin James hard to resist. Zookeeper has a great opening sequence of anxiety with James asking an improbably beautiful blondie (Leslie Bibb, “Iron Man”) for her hand in marriage, then it has a few hokey minutes that stretched my patience, then it had a rhythmically jittery sequence of James getting tongue-tied around the blondie again. I don’t exactly laugh during Kevin James movies. I get a rolling, queasy case of the giggles that verge on shame. “I can’t believe he’s willing to be this dorky just to entertain us!” I often say to myself. Nonetheless, he’s got me in a quake of giggles and I can’t help but  admire his heart’s dedication to whatever craft you want to call it. The child within me says it’s a nice movie with no bad vibes when I surrender all adult thought. I also found the talking animals engaging, and the movie made the good decision to have them give James not human advice but animal advice.

There is of course another woman in the story of less pretentions and she is played by Rosario Dawson (“25thHour”) as a fellow zookeeper. Dawson appears to weigh more than 120 pounds which is a relief, because James always acts opposite women that are on the waif side. His character was married to the pixie Winona Ryder in “The Dilemma” from earlier this year, and I wondered whether if his character was crushing her in bed. Dawson isn’t thick-boned but maybe, uh, well-boned, but more than that she has had an ordinary girl next door quality that matches well with James the domestic teddy bear.

Dawson makes a whole lot more sense as a romantic partner than Bibb who is a shallow, money-grubbing socialite. But what makes James’ pursuit of this blondie preposterously amusing is how low he is willing to go to compromise his dignity. Mismatched ugly guys and blonde beauties annoys me usually, but only when this happens earnestly in the movies. But this is a comedy about a man who abandons his dignity to attain the unattainable, and James is the right self-deprecating guy to do that. He turns his unrestrained self-humiliating persona on in a way that even outdoes “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009). When he does a dance with the aid of silk drapes the camera does a close-up on his happy clam face that’s just a wee too adorable, and unmanly, for a schlub his size.

The animals – who collectively don’t want James to abandon them for another job – drop their silence once the zoo is emptied at night. Actors lending voices include Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte, Cher, Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Maya Rudolph and Jon Favreau primarily. During these nighttime interludes, James is coached by the animals on how to deal with women, and how to mark his own territory, literally, and more. James has no shame, but he is confidently cheerful when he takes Nolte the gorilla on a night out on the town by telling people that they just came from a costume party. If there is one thing that James looks proud of doing it’s hangin’ with the primates.

101 Minutes. Rated PG.


Film Cousins: “Babe” (1995); “The Animal” (2001); “Madagascar” (2005); “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (2009).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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