Director: Frank Coraci
Writers: Nick Bakay, Rock Reuben, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
Stars: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Joe Rogan, Donnie Wahlberg, Ken Jeong, Nick Turturro
SYNOPSIS: When a favorite zookeeper falls for the girl he had his heart broken by five years earlier, the animals in the Franklin Park Zoo break their vow of silence with humans to help him.
REVIEW: Frank Coraci, a favorite Adam Sandler director with Click, The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer, moves to the end of the alphabet and to a new lead comedic actor with Zookeeper and Kevin James. Written by Kevin James film scribe Nick Bakay and a host of others, including Rock Reuben and Kevin James himself (The King of Queens) and Jay Scherick and David Ronn (Norbit), Zookeeper is another in a long line of talking animals starring in romantic comedies.
Kevin James stars as Griffin Keyes, a zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo who treats his animals with love and co-workers with respect, who as a hopeless romantic five years earlier proposed to his girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) on a sun-setting beach - only to be rejected outright. Focusing all of his energies on his work, he realizes that he hasn't gotten over Stephanie when she is invited to his brother's engagement party at the zoo. Overhearing the fact that she is now interested in Griffin, the zoo animals decide to break their vows of silence with humans in order to give Griffin support to help win the girl. What results are plenty of hi-jinks based on relationship advice from furry critters, from marking your territory to throwing poo to fronting one's "pudding cup".
Adding to the human cast are Rosario Dawson at the zoo's eagle expert Kate, Ken Jeong as quirky and somewhat creepy reptile keeper Venom, Donnie Wahlberg as the sometimes too gruff zookeeper Shane, Nick Turturro as the upbeat zoo security guard Manny, and Joe Rogan as another of Stephanie's ex-boyfriends Gale who Griffin finds himself using the animals relationship pointers against as they compete for the same girl.
Not to be outdone, the voice cast is a collection of A-listers and fan favorites. Nick Nolte voices Bernie the Gorilla, a beast who has been sentenced to a life of loneliness as a result of an accusation of attacking zookeeper Shane. Adam Sandler voices Donald the Monkey, a primate who feels he is higher on the animal food-chain because of his highly-developed thumbs. Jon Favreau's Jerome the Bear and Faizon Love's Bruce the Bear bicker over advice like an old married couple pent up too long in the same zoo enclosure. Not to be outdone on the marriage squabbling are Sylvester Stallone and Cher as Joe the Lion and Janet the Lioness. Rounding out the voice talent are Judd Apatow as weight watching Barry the Elephant, Maya Rudolph as singing Mollie the Giraffe, Bas Rutten as Sebastian the Wolf, Don RIckles as Frog, Jim Breuer as Crow and Richie Minervini as Ostrich.
James brings his King of Queens mania and Paul Blart: Mall Cop over-sized heart to the role of Griffin. In the tradition of Night at the Museum, where unexpected events come to life after the facilities close, Griffin and his animal compatriots mull over the next technique to try on Stephanie when the last advice keeps making Griffin looking foolish. The high points are the Griffin/Gale alpha male competitions for Stephanie's affection, a memorable dance sequence at Griffin's brother's wedding, and an unplanned trip for Griffin and Bernie to T.G.I. Fridays - shut up!
Zookeeper is silly, funny, heartfelt and enjoyable for anyone who enjoys talking animals and light romantic comedies. Just be sure to temper the advice that any talking animal may give you, even if many species mate for life!
WORTH: Matinee or DVD