'Zookeeper': Talking animals in a not-so-funny farce
If you've been waiting for Hollywood to produce a romantic comedy with a supporting cast made up of talking animals . . . well, no, even then, Zookeeper will let you down.
Kevin James stars in this flat furry farce, playing a love dunce devoted to the caged menagerie in his care. (Actually the animals, even the predators, spend far more time out of their enclosures in this film than they do confined.)
As his name tag informs us, James is the "Head Zookeeper" at Boston's wildlife park. This despite the fact that he seems to have no acquaintance with animal physiology or habits. His primary qualification is that he pampers these creatures outrageously.
That's why, when the animals find out he wants to switch careers to please the grasping shrew (Leslie Bibb) he's stupidly hooked on, they decide to break their cardinal code and speak to a human.
Soon, James is saddled with all kinds of inappropriate mating strategies, such as marking his territory or walking with his "pudding cup" thrust forward.
His suddenly odd behavior is alarming his capable coworker (Rosario Dawson).
Zookeeper begins with a clever scene - a marriage proposal gone horribly wrong. It goes steadily downhill from there.
The plot is a hoary, trite series of detours leading to an obvious epiphany: James realizes he only has to be himself. Wait, there's a second lesson here too: Don't let the gorilla drive.
The film would be a moth-eaten mess without the wisecracking animals. Not that it's funny with them.
You get a batch of name actors - Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Maya Rudolph, Jon Favreau - doing criminally cartoonish voices.
The worst transgressor is Adam Sandler, indulgently vocalizing a Capuchin monkey as a cross between Gilbert Gottfried and Louis Armstrong. If this ploy amuses you, you're probably a Barney fan.
Although it may represent a career low for Nick Nolte, his gravelly delivery of a severely depressed ape is the only bright spot.
Zookeeper is suggested only for those who want to watch animals chew hay and scenery at the same time.