In a world where so many movie plotlines have all been done a million times, maybe now is a good time to start experimenting with mixing some of these ideas together to see if they can be revitalized into new and interesting concepts. The problem with experimenting of course is that it doesn’t always work and sometimes the results have to be destroyed before they start rampaging through the city. Zookeeper is an experiment Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of.
Zookeeper is an unhappy marriage between the romantic comedy formula of “person A likes person B but is nothing like person B so they use person C to get person B, but then person A and C fall in love,” and the family movie gimmick of “All the animals in the zoo can talk and have personalities.” Griffin Keyes (Kevin James, The Dilemma) plays person A, the head zookeeper of a city zoo. He was dumped by person B, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb, Iron Man 2), a prissy society girl who wants James to become the man of her dreams. Person C is a veterinarian who works at the zoo with James named Kate (Rosario Dawson, Unstoppable). Dawson is joined by the animals in the zoo in helping James and Bibb get together and teach James self-confidence.
The issue with the film is that the two genres just didn’t blend well throughout the film. The talking zoo animals teach James how to attract a mate in the wild, so part of the humor is the whole “Animals do things differently than people.” This is done through a lot of physical comedy on James’ part, which isn’t too bad considering he looks and acts like Lou Costello, but it doesn’t really fit with the overall plot that well. The gorilla, Bernie (Nick Nolte, Arthur) has an interesting subplot involving another zookeeper and animal abuse, but it’s buried beneath the romantic comedy.
The other half of the beast is the romance thing between James, Bibb and Dawson. One of the issues here is the fact that Bibb is almost completely unlikable. She comes across as a pretentious socialite with nothing more to her personality than a fake smile and terrible commitment issues. The nice thing though is the relationship between James and Dawson. It seems that Dawson can form chemistry with anyone she acts with. She is definitely an actress to watch in the future, hopefully after she busts away from this kind of drivel.
The romantic comedy and animal talking sides could’ve made two mediocre movies but together it almost does feel like watching two mediocre movies, only where every five minutes someone swaps the DVDs. They just don’t blend in any way to make it feel like one complete story and it turns the whole thing into an incoherent mess. Another weird thing is that it’s hard to tell who this film was made for in the first place. The talking animals seem to be a little more adult than should be in a children’s movie and the whole romance thing is definitely too adult for children to really get what’s going on. At the same time it all feels so juvenile that it’s hard to say if it appeals to adults. Maybe it’s supposed to appeal to zoo animals.
Zookeeper is rated PG.