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Grab Bag Review: ‘Zookeeper’ – Keep Your Money For Something Better

Upfront Impressions: Guy is nice to girl, girl is not nice to guy, guy has a bunch of animals teach him horrible behavior, girl likes guy as long as he is a jerk, guy decides to be a jerk, guy decides not to be a jerk, and guy goes after the other girl…the nice one.

Okay, so that probably isn’t a totally fair upfront impression statement. But, it is fairly accurate. This is essentially a family film and is (maybe?) targeted to children. I’m really not sure about that. Yes there are a couple gross out scenes, some raunchy language that walks a thin line to PG-13, and prat falls. Deep down though, I think this was suppose to be a more romantic movie. Or a movie about how “guy get’s girl.” Somewhere in there, it all went wrong.

Kevin James plays Griffin, an animal loving “lead” Zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo (which is in Boston, which we will get to later). He has been dumped (5 years ago) by his girlfriend when he asked her to marry him (5 years ago). Leslie Bibb plays Stephanie, the girl who dumped Griffin (5 years ago) because he was just a Zookeeper and she wasn’t okay with that. Over those five years, somehow Griffin has continued to work as a Zookeeper, doing something he loves, taking great care of the animals, earning their respect and not dating anyone. Stephanie suddenly enters Griffin’s life again, and now he is hell bent on winning her back. Sort of. Technically, he didn’t think about her that much after the last encounter, but the animals somehow convince him that he is still in love with her, and decide they will teach him how to impress her and capture her heart.

Rosario Dawson plays Kate, who is a fellow Zookeeper with Griffin. They have a lot in common, they have good chemistry, she’s good looking and they save animals lives together. But, for some reason they can’t see that they are right for each other. The above poster would give you the impression that the animals are trying to get Kate and Griffin together. Nope, that isn’t happening. False advertising there. Even though they have been working close together for years, they never date. After a night of pretending to be Griffin’s girlfriend to make Stephanie jealous, Kate starts to have feelings for Griffin that he doesn’t see until way later in the film. I’m pretty sure you can see where this all ends. Before that ending though, Griffin is taught how to act like an idiot and pretty much embarrass himself by various zoo animals. The bears teach him to growl, push out his belly, scratch his back on a tree, and he does it. In public even. The wolf teaches Griffin to pee on trees to mark his territory, and he does it…in a fancy restaurant. The Lion teaches him to be a total prick, which he does and somehow wins the affection of Stephanie. You know, that typical “girls only go for the A-holes” thing.

Suddenly, and I mean literally abruptly out of nowhere, Griffin becomes a car salesman with his brother. Essentially his brother has been asking him to join his business for a while. And now that Griffin is a Grade A Douche Bag, he can be a car salesman and give up being a Zookeeper. Kate decides that since she can’t be with Griffin, she is going to travel to another country to work with animals and leave the Zoo. Which prompts Griffin to end things with Stephanie and fight his way to win back Kate. This gives us a chance to see Nick Nolte, as Bernie the (TGI Friday’s Loving) Gorilla, doing his best King Kong impression.

There are some jokes sprinkled in there. Quite a few prat falls from Kevin James, and of course some awkward dancing, which is his claim to fame in most of his movies. The animals are oddly voice acted. I wasn’t impressed. I love Maya Rudolph, but she has one of the most annoying voices in the film as Mollie the Giraffe. Second only to Adam Sandler, who channels Gilbert Gottfried, as Donald the Monkey. Donnie Wahlberg is in the film as an abusive Zookeeper, who gets what’s coming to him later in the film, yet lends nothing to the story. I already mentioned Nick Nolte as Bernie the (TGI Friday’s Loving) Gorilla, who becomes Griffin’s best friend.

Which brings me to product placement. Lot’s of it. An entire scene in TGI Friday’s that serves no purpose in the film. And Redbull aplenty. Which might have something to do with how Redbull gives you wings, and having wings is kind of a little thing between Kate and Griffin. Product placement these days is rampant in films. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it is extremely overt, like in this film. Oh and I need to bring up Boston. Yes, this is in Boston. I guess. I figured that out mainly by the over use of Boston (the band) songs in the film. There is also a damaging karaoke style butchering of “More Than A Feeling” during the credits. An unfortunate tragedy.

My viewing partner, my eight year old son, gave very few chuckles during the movie. He would only glance at me when they would use a little bit of language, because sometimes that’s funny to kids. Other than that, he didn’t seem impressed. After the viewing, I asked what he thought. He said it was “okay.” This coming from the boy who loved Judy Moody and also loved Furry Vengeance. If a film like Zookeeper can’t claw its way above Furry Vengeance, then you know we got a rotten film on our hands. And indeed, this was. I strongly suggest staying away from this film and saving your money for the next family film to be released. This is not a rental, and probably not an HBO watch. Maybe you could catch it when it plays on TBS. But I would still say stay clear of this one. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

.5 out of 5

About the author

Michael Cantrell

Film enthusiast and observer of miscellaneous web findings. Living and working in the Inland Empire, Southern California. Acquired a Bachelor's degree in Television/Film, which is sitting in a file cabinet hidden from the world. General film interests are with independent films, comedies, science fiction and drama. Contributor over at