FILM REVIEW: Zookeeper

A MODERN day Dr Dolittle takes advice from the animals in his care to win the woman of his dreams in Frank Coraci’s surprisingly endearing comedy.

Kevin James isn’t known for subtlety in front of the camera and here he throws himself into embarrassing situations such as mimicking the territorial behaviour of wolves by urinating in public.

The script completely loses the plot when the eponymous hero takes a gorilla out of his cage for a night on the town, persuading the patrons of one swanky Boston bar that the hulking primate is a friend in costume.

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They swallow the lie and end up clinking beer glasses with the gorilla in their midst.

Away from the silliness, we grow fond of the characters and the script manages the occasional moment of silver-tongued tenderness: “It took me five years to get over someone I don’t love. I can’t imagine how long it would take me to get over you.” Awww.

Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) is humiliated when his sweetheart Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) rebuffs a marriage proposal.

“I know it shouldn’t bother me that you’re a zookeeper, but it kinda does,” she responds sadly.

Five years later, Griffin is head keeper at Franklin Park Zoo, treating all of the animals with compassion and earning the respect of co-workers Kate (Rosario Dawson) and Venom (Ken Jeong).

Stephanie walks back into Griffin’s life and throws him into an emotional whirl.

The animals, led by Joe the lion (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) and Janet the lioness (Cher), decide to break their silence to help Griffin win back Stephanie.

Once the keeper recovers from the shock that the beasts can talk, he follows their conflicting advice about how to woo Stephanie.

Donald the monkey (Adam Sandler), Barry the elephant (Judd Apatow), Jerome and Bruce the bears (Jon Favreau, Faizon Love), Mollie the giraffe (Maya Rudolph) and Sebastian the wolf (Bas Rutten) all have their suggestions, none of which end well.

Meanwhile, Griffin becomes friends with Bernie the gorilla (Nick Nolte), who reveals why he doesn’t like fellow keeper Shane (Donnie Wahlberg).

Zookeeper makes Griffin the butt of the jokes as he tries to be someone or something he isn’t to find true romance.

Of course, he eventually realises that he only has to be himself to win the fair lady’s heart while his animal accomplices screech, growl, trumpet and whoop with delight.

Sandler snaffles the best lines as the cheeky primate who believes he is superior to the other animals because of his thumbs - “You can’t pick up a coffee cup, you can’t wear mittens!”

Though Zookeeper doesn’t really cast any lingering animal magic, it has enough laughs to keep family audiences engaged during the summer holidays.

By Damon Smith


Released: July 29 (UK & Ireland) (PG, 101 mins)