Sunday, 7 August 2011


Zookeeper [Review]

Opinion: B

As someone who didn't buy into slapstick Kevin James comedies previously, Zookeeper somehow surpassed my already pessimistic expectation and delivered to some extent. Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaids, this is not. A family-oriented popcorn fare that serves up some enjoyable gigs via talking animals with larger-than-life personalities, might be the mindless after-work indulgence some of you are looking for.

In Zookeeper, the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo love their kindhearted caretaker, Griffin Keyes (Kevin James). Finding himself more comfortable with a lion than a lady, Griffin decides the only way to get a girl in his life is to leave the zoo and find a more glamorous job. The animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honoured code of silence and reveal their biggest secret they can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they decide to teach him the rules of courtship animal style.

The film also stars Rosario Dawson and Leslie Bibb and features the voices of Cher, Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, and Sylvester Stallone.

Apart from Kevin James, Rosario Dawson and Donnie Wahlberg as live-action cast members, there's really a lot of credible talents who served as voice-actors in this films. Although this is a romantic comedy, a lot of fun comes from the animals. If you're wondering who provided the various personalities to the talking animals, here's some notable names:

Adam Sandler voiced as Donald the monkey, the animal who stole quite a fair bit of limelight in my opinion. Sylvester Stallone voiced as Joe the lion, Cher as Janet the lioness, Jon Favreau (Director of Ironman and Cowboys & Aliens) as Jerome the bear, Maya Rudolph as Mollie the giraffe, and Nick Nolte as Bernie the gorilla.

Much as how most of the animals weren't exactly inspired by the best of what technologies offers as what we commonly call movie magic (or visual effects), it's the characterisation of the animals that is what really matters in a comedy. Of course, the gorilla was played by people in a suit, possibly the most physical animal performance required in this film.

Adam Sandler gave the monkey this exotic husky voice and peculiar accent that really made the animal stand out distinctively. I couldn't even tell it was Sandler until the credit roll. While I could tell that the giraffe was Maya Rudolph from a mile away, it doesn't mean she did a bad job (she's a good actress on the rise these days, have you seen Bridesmaids?). Just the inability to mask her own identity and inspire as another, which is what talented voice actors are capable of.

Compared to the previous comedies that Kevin James acted in, Zookeeper is not annoying and outrageously slapstick like Grown Ups. Admittedly, there are still cheesy and slapstick moments in Zookeeper, but they are kept to a minimal level that I can deal with. This is definitely not a film that critics will love (a zookeeper brings a gorilla out to T.G.I.Friday's, so what do you think?) , but as a family comedy I think it's acceptable.

James seems to be subdued here without a lot of blatant physical comedy acting (which irritated me), but it seems like that's the way he should go. He needs to break out of his typecast role and explore a little more to seek out other potentials within himself. Dawson seems really (dashingly) comfortable and confident in her role, these qualities oozing from her easy role written reflects something about Dawson.

The worst performer here is (surprisingly) Ken Jeong, who is very uninspiring and the hilarity that he attempts to instill appears to be extremely disturbing and confusing to me. There wasn't a single moment of his screen presence that I find myself enjoying.

There's plenty that the children can benefit from the messages this film is sending out. Nothing beats having a true buddy who sticks by you, rather than people who clings to you for materialistic benefits. There's also this subplot about Donnie Wahlberg's Shane using a pole with a sharp hook to get the gorilla moving that can discourage animal cruelty behaviour.

Kids aren't able to enjoy Horrible Bosses and Bridesmaids, but fortunately they have Zookeeper this Summer.

(Preview screening courtesy of Sony Pictures Singapore)


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