Zookeeper (2011) Review

(Written by Courtney Ramsey)

Campy and a bit unoriginal (following years after Dr. Dolittle) Zookeeper forces the audience to embrace their inner child to better understand and gain an overall appreciation for the film. The slapstick comedy used in the first fifteen minutes is a clear sign the film is geared toward younger audiences. Going into the film knowing the childish storyline (and the PG rating) anyone with a young heart and open mind can easily laugh their way through Frank Coraci’s new film.

Set in Franklin Park Zoo, the head zookeeper Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) spends most of his time with the animals he works with. He goes out of his way to make them comfortable, buy them new things to spice up their boring zoo-lives and even shares with them the stories of his heartbreak over a certain young woman, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). When this woman comes back into his life, Griffin begins to rethink his life as a zookeeper and considers leaving to win Stephanie’s affection. The animals decide as a group that the only way to keep Griffin around as head zookeeper is to reveal to him the biggest secret of all: They can actually talk. Setting Griffin up with lessons to teach him how to woo a lady, animal style, his new friends take him through twists and turns that help him find himself and what he truly wants. Zookeeper also stars Rosario Dawson as a charming eagle trainer at the Franklin Park Zoo that finds herself closer to Griffin than expected.

There were several writers who took part in the project, which often times lends itself to a messy storyline that is hard to follow. This was more than the case for Zookeeper. The plot jumps around from the main character’s failed love life to his focused attention on a socially shy gorilla at the zoo and back. Something that is easy for younger audiences to focus on with smaller attention spans but not much for the substance seeker.

The film did have a charming attribute; all of the animals (with the exception of Bernie the Gorilla) were real trained animals. In some cases famed animals. Cher provides the voice for the lioness whose actual name is Taureg. Taureg has appeared in Second Hand Lions, Prey and CSI: New York. She has also been in commercials for Land Rover, Jeep and Build a Bear. Crystal, the monkey, has appeared in The Hangover Part 2, Dr. Dolittle 1 and 2, American Pie 1 and 2, Night of the Museum 1 and 2, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, George of the Jungle, The Shaggy Dog, Fun with Dick and Jane, Failure to Launch, 3:10 to Yuma and Garfield 2. Crystal has also appeared in more than a few television shows, proving to be the biggest name in the entire film! Along with Tweet, the giraffe, who has appeared in adds for Toys R Us, this star studded animal cast stands alone with or without their celebrity voices.

Adam Sandler took part in the production process as well as staring in the film. Sandler provides the voice for monkey, Donald. With Sandler’s name on a project that is in the comedy genre, it is bound to sell tickets. Zookeeper seems to be jam packed with stars to sell the script instead of the actual writing having any development.

The entire project was very clearly aimed at young audiences. Giving humanlike traits to animals is something that every child dreams of and can appreciate. Kevin James plays Griffin with a charm that any child can easily connect with and love from the beginning. It has, as mentioned before, an excess of slapstick comedy that younger people are drawn to and the storyline (though choppy and messy) has a quaint appeal that children can easily find entertaining. Zookeeper is a family movie, something to appreciate with the young ones. Heavy language is minimal and the suggestive humor is covered fairly well by other things going on in the film. Overall, Zookeeper is a silly story that audiences can all laugh through, with the help of children.