(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express on 24 September, 2011, retrieved from http://expressbuzz.com/entertainment/reviews/the-zookeeper/316989.html)
Cast: Kevin James, Leslie Bibb, Rosario Dawson, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe Rogan, Nat Faxon, Ken Jeong
Voice cast: Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Cher, Jon Favreau
Director: Frank Coraci
Rating: 2 stars
You know there’s something tricky about marrying a rom-com along the lines of Some Kind of Wonderful to a kiddy movie along the lines of Dr Doolittle. And you know it isn’t working when it begins to remind you simultaneously of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
The movie has a promising cast. Well, Kevin James is promising in just about anything. But despite his knack of turning stupid into endearing, even he can’t do much to lift an inept storyline. He plays the zookeeper Griffin, who’s dating the ravishing Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), who dumps him because he’s a zookeeper. We’re not sure whether it has to do with the state of his bank balance, or the aroma of his workplace.
Five years later, Griffin – whom you guess has got over a breakup and moved on – is shown to be the awesomest zookeeper ever, but apparently single and miserable. When he spots his old flame at a pre-wedding party, he has an epiphany – “Whoopsie! This is why my life sucks. I’ll win her back, and it’ll all be all right!” Inexplicably, Stephanie, for all her sexiness, is still unmarried. But she has a snooty boyfriend Gale (Joe Rogan), who’s designed to tick you off.
Next comes the dilemma. “Now, how do I win back a girl who doesn’t like me because I’m a zookeeper, when my brother runs a luxury car dealership? Heyyyy! Wait a minute! Let me quit as a zookeeper, and start work at the dealership! Whaaa, why didn’t I think of this five years ago?”
And then comes the conflict. The animals adore Griffin, and are loath to let him go. So, they decide to help him win over Stephanie by unleashing their terror on zoo visitors to make him appear the life-saving hero. What happens next is a precursor of what happens for the next hour and a half – Griffin screams, falls, pounces, dives, rolls and makes a fool of himself.
The animals decide to take charge, and break their golden rule – never talk to humans – by teaching Griffin their mating techniques. The lioness has a tip that will turn out to be the crux of the movie – to make a female jealous, date another female. And so, Griffin approaches Kate (Rosario Dawson), whose beauty is camouflaged by a simple ponytail – shampoo ad, anyone? – and asks her to his brother’s wedding.
Meanwhile, the social misfit finds companionship in a cynical misanthrope – well, we’re talking about a gorilla here – who gives him such good advice that he ends up having to choose between two hot chicks – well, the human kind.
The problem with the story, aside from the fact that it’s about as predictable as Lagaan, is that you can’t figure out what age it’s intended for. You don’t want to be taking your kids to a movie where talking animals discuss marking territory and displaying genitalia. You probably don’t want to introduce your children to smoking, drinking, and drugs right now. But do you want to see Kevin James fall over often enough to make Kramer from Seinfeld go “huh, this dude’s kinda clumsy”? Will you be entertained by a bunch of animals ordering in from a pizzeria, and tickled by the quantity of food they eat? Are you interested in lessons in scatology? And do you wonder what the folks at TGIF would think if you took a gorilla there?
As an old fan of The King of Queens, I found myself pitying Kevin James for getting mixed up in a script that looks like it’s been forged out of the discarded first drafts of a bunch of predecessors. (Uh, what was it doing with five scriptwriters?!) Having watched Kutti Shaitanin 3D in my childhood, I find myself rather taken with the newer products of this technology, and may have been mollified if the lion had jumped out at me, or if one of the animals had threatened to empty its bladder into the camera. But without the juvenile thrills of 3D, the infantile spills, clichéd puns, eye-rolling and strained humour are even less impressive.
You may want to go to the movie if you’re really bored, and can’t find tickets to anything else. Chances are that it’s a better watch thanVandhaan Vendraan.