by Rick Grant
Kevin James knows his niche as a low-ball comedy actor who specializes in physical humor and cheap laughs. In most of his films, James presses the limits of physical comedy to become boring and unfunny.
However, in this unabashedly Dr. Doolittle inspired movie, surrounded by talking animals, James seems to be perfectly cast as the “poor soul”–a loveable buffoon who really cares about the zoo’s confined animals.
And as the audience finds out, the animals care about James’ character Griffin, who goes out of his way to make the animals life more comfortable and happy. Animal lovers like me can identify with that quality.
Yes, James has given Griffin many redeeming qualities, but knowing how to read his girlfriend Stephanie’s (Leslie Bibb) signals, is not one of them. So, to repay Griffin for his loving care of the animals, they get together to help him reconnect with his ex-fiancee.
Of course, the animals are the focus of the movie and their dialogue is funny. Their voices are played by a host of veteran actors. Nick Nolte voiced Bernie the Gorilla; Adam Sandler voiced Donald the Monkey, Sylvester Stallone voiced Joe the Lion: and Cher voiced Janet the Lioness.
When Griffin finds out the animals can talk, he freaks out and does his standard pratfall shtick, or more accurately in this case, a stunt double takes the fall. Griffin’s relationship with Bernie, the depressed gorilla, is surprisingly poignant and James stretches his acting chops to almost be convincing.
Savvy viewers keep waiting for Kevin James to go deeper into his character, but what you see with James’ characters is always surface shtick. However, he does what he does well and wisely sticks to getting cheap laughs.
Nonetheless, the animal characters save this picture from becoming just another James’ skin-deep characterization.
Nick Nolte is a cast standout as the voice of Bernie the gorilla and Adam Sandler is hilarious as the voice of Donald the Monkey.
So, talking animals and Kevin James equals harmless family fun at the movies.
Zookeeper Movie Review
by Rick Grant