In this zoo story, lameness prevails

Younger children have not been the best-served market this summer, a losing streak that continues with "Zookeeper."

This long-on-the-shelf Kevin James comedy is the latest in a series of whiffs that includes "Cars 2" and "Mr. Popper's Penguins," and may send families back for another look at "Kung Fu Panda 2."

"Zookeeper" is a dud, even with the can't-miss kiddie catnip of talking animals. James is Griffin, a zoologist with girlfriend troubles, who starts to get advice from the animals (voices of Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Nick Nolte).

He's instructed to be more of a pack-leader, an alpha male, leading to unfunny scenes of Griffin trying to impress his ex by growling, scratching his back, and urinating into a potted plant.

Far too much time is spent on Griffin's adult dating issues - chasing the wrong woman, competing with her boyfriend, ignoring his growing feelings for another zoologist (Rosario Dawson), and finally changing jobs to work in a car dealership.

"Zookeeper" would have been much better off reversing the situation, having Griffin help one animal hook up with another, keeping the focus on the zoo, even if it's just a place where a monkey makes repeated jokes about throwing his feces.

The movie's only laugh-generator has Griffin taking a morose gorilla (Nolte) on a dream trip to TGI Fridays, also the weirdest product placement of the summer.

Will kids tolerate "Zookeeper?" Possibly. But it's likely to bring out the beast in the chaperoning parent.

One more week till "Winnie the Pooh."


Directed by Frank Coraci. With Kevin James. Distributed by MGM.

Parent's guide: Unrated ().