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Screen » Film

Marking the Wrong Territory: Zookeeper mates badly voiced animals with kooky pratfalls

Zookeeper mates badly voiced animals with kooky pratfalls

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It must be nice to be Adam Sandler's pal. The funny man is known to keep it all in the family, sticking his buddies in movies that aren't original or risky, yet rake in cash. Kevin James is part of Sandler's crew and Zookeeper is basically Night at the Museum set in a zoo. It's a Dating Game version of Noah's Ark, with James taking cues from the wild kingdom and peeing and grunting in public.


A typical written-in-someone's-sleep story line involves James as Griffin, the kindly zookeeper, attempting to win back a poisonous woman while a good romance stares him in the face. The entire menagerie feels the need to break their silence and reveal their ability to talk, in an attempt to help get Griffin's life together and, of course, keep him at the zoo.

I'm sure the talking animals are wildly child-pleasing, but they weren't realistic in the least. Incorporating real animals with the technologically outdated use of animated mouths, Zookeeper feels like an Animal Planet installment of Look Who's Talking. The characterization of every critter seems wrong, as if they were dubbing voices for another movie in an adjacent studio. Adam Sandler's monkey screeches cute like Gilbert Gottfried. In other words, it doesn't. Maya Rudolph's giraffe gargles in a ridiculous Ebonics sounding dialect. Sly Stallone's lion seems brain damaged (what a shock). Cher's lioness is weirdly out of place and Nick Nolte's gorilla is just off the charts wrong. Plus, the gorilla looks like it's the same guy in the monkey suit from the bad Konga movies.

For those of you that cannot get enough of Kevin James' King of Queens shtick and/or the Paul Blart: Mall Cop slapstick, here it is again in all its pratfall glory. He falls down a lot, runs into things, acts startled and has this uncanny ability to move his head to imaginary music, be it rap or heavy metal. Oh, and he also busts some dance moves and acrobatics that show he's still limber even though he's a big fat guy.

Zookeeper is poorly timed and strangely subdued. I wasn't expecting Eugene O'Neill, but was somewhat taken aback by this idiot fest. It's too bad Sandler and company can't make everyone laugh.

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