So, apparently, Kevin James is a bit overweight and hilariously awkward. Surely no more evergreen premise for a film since the days of (the wrongly maligned) Fatty Arbuckle. Remember what I said about being a dad in The Smurfs review?
Yeah, double that here. The Barb loves her some movie popcorn (though she doesn’t like to share a bag) and The Flower wanted to see this comedy about a zookeeper who takes advice from animals in order to win over an ex-girlfriend.
Profoundly stupid. Like, Tron: Legacy level stupidity.
The premise is that animals can, apparently, speak English and relate to each other more-or-less exactly the way humans do, but they don’t because it doesn’t end well most of the time. They make an exception for James’ character because he’s having such a hard time of things and he’s such a swell guy to them.
So, naturally, when a wolf tells him he needs to pee everywhere, well, that’s what he does. Because, of course, that’s what you’d do, right? A wolf tells you you need to mark your territory to entrance a mate, you’d naturally pee all over a fancy restaurant.
At least he didn’t start throwing feces, like the monkey suggested.
Actually, in the “small favors” category, I was at least pleased that they mostly kept the story out of the gutter. Of all the suggestions made by the animals, I don’t remember any references to penis size or the sex act itself. I suppose that may be partly because actual animal mating isn’t very funny when transposed on to humans. (“Beat the crap out of the other guy, then hunt her down and take her.” More horror movie material, really.)
So, this was an hour and forty minutes of me trying to figure out who the animal voices were. I spotted Sylvester Stallone as the lion easily enough, and Nick Nolte as the Silverback Gorilla. But Cher (as the lioness) and Adam Sandler (as the monkey) bugged me through most of the movie. I spotted Maya Rudolph as the giraffe somehow, but not Judd Apatow as the elephant, Don Rickles as the frog or Jon Favreau as the bear.
But then I didn’t really care much.
Sandler’s fingerprints are all over this movie, which wouldn’t have to a bad thing, of necessity, but it sort of feels like second-tier hand-me-down vehicle Sandler himself wouldn’t star in. (I guess they’d have had to make do without all the fat jokes.)
James is pretty talented. He does some good work. But the set pieces really don’t work. There’s a “wacky” bicycle race between him and Joe Rogan which comes off neither as particularly wacky and just plain unfunny, unless you’re going for “look at the fat guy on the silly three wheeler”, which they probably were.
It was sort of interesting to see “Game” concepts come up: James plays a classic “beta male” nice guy trying to get back Leslie Bibb from the clutches of major douchebag Joe Rogan. Bibb somehow sees “potential” in James—a high income earner, if only he’d leave his true love: The zoo.
The bigger the jerk James is to Bibb, the more she likes him, and it’s a credit to James that he can pull off both characters with ease. But meanwhile, working at this same zoo? Rosario Dawson. She shares his passion for all things zoo-y and doesn’t seem completely repulsed by him.
I don’t need to spell this out for you. It so by-the-numbers, you know exactly how the climactic scene is going to play out the first instant you see Dawson come on screen. (And, really, last-minute-rushes-to-save-the-day really work best if you provide some back story, but The Zookeeper streamlines your experience by not providing any support whatsoever.)
It did strike me as dumb. There’s never any doubt about what’s going to happen in this movie, which would be fine, if it were funnier and more plausible. (Hell, strike the “more plausible” part.) And Dawson, somehow, has become the ultimate beta-loser’s girlfriend (see Clerks II and The Rundown). I’m not sure how that happened. But we’re supposed to believe that James overlooks Dawson somehow, until she puts on an evening gown. It’s almost insulting the intelligence beyond the whole talking animal thing.
At least they didn’t put her in glasses, and have her take them off dramatically.
The girls liked it okay. The Barb was clearly bored in parts but offered no particular complaints. But then, she’s five and it has funny talking animals. I didn’t hear either of them laughing much. I did, a couple of times.
I am grateful for the little things, particularly that they kept it clean outside of a way too many scenes of James peeing on things. But it wasn’t worth my $3.