Movies: Zookeeper

Kevin James is a zookeeper who can talk to the
animals....and they talk back to him.
Photo: Columbia Tri-Star

Zookeeper manages to be sweet and amusing. The story of zookeeper Griffin Keys (Kevin James) and his pursuit of his one true love Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) is enlivened by his job — the same job that caused Stephanie to reject him.

Griffin is, you see, a zookeeper at Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo. Stephanie cannot imagine marrying a zookeeper and she walked away. Now, he is invited to a wedding where he will see her and sets out to change her mind.

Of course, you know the ending. Or, as Griffin says, “You had to see this coming.” But, along the way there are a couple of complications and the animals in his charge decide to help Griffin with the very best advice they can offer.

The animals speak in some very famous voices and it is fun figuring out who they are. Joe the Lion and Janet the Lioness (Sylvester Stallone and Cher, respectively) are easy. So are Donald the Monkey and Frog (Adam Sandler and Don Rickles, especively). The biggest animal part is Bernie the Gorilla (Nick Nolte) and there’s also Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Maya Rudolph and Jim Breuer. It’s a lot of fun watching them interact with each other and with their zookeeper.

Kevin James is a very pleasant guy. He seems nice and kind. The other actors portraying humans in the movie are also pleasant. Rosario Dawson is the vet who likes Griffin for who he is, Ken Jeong is the snake guy and Donnie Wahlberg is a cruel zookeeper. The problem is the story. There are five screenwriters credited, including James, and one has to wonder if they couldn’t come up with something better.

The novelty of the talking animals wears thin quickly, but kids will probably enjoy it, as they will also enjoy Griffin’s antics at his brother’s wedding.

But, in the end, Zookeeper is as wispy as a summer breeze in Las Vegas.