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The animals at the Franklin Park Zoo love their kindhearted caretaker, Griffin Keyes. Finding himself more comfortable with a lion than a lady, Griffin decides the only way to get a girl in his life is to leave the zoo and find a more glamorous job. The animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honored code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: they can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they decide to teach him the rules of courtship - animal style.
For more about Zookeeper and the Zookeeper Blu-ray release, see Zookeeper Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 4, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Frank Coraci
Writers: Nick Bakay, Kevin James, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe Rogan
» See full cast & crew
Zookeeper Blu-ray Review
A Family Comedy that brings nothing new to the table.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 4, 2011
We don't ever talk to humans.
Imagine Dr. Doolittle meets Night at the Museum, and the result should look quite a bit like Zookeeper, another well-meaning and occasionally funny but ultimately drab Kevin James Comedy that the world of motion pictures could have just as easily done without and been no worse for its absence. Even considering that Zookeeper is maybe more Romantic Comedy than it is outrageous talking animal picture, there's little substance despite a fair bit of well-intentioned heart. It rightfully doesn't strive to be any great shakes and aims only to make its audience laugh, but there's only so many times people can watch repetitive physical gags and zany visuals mixed with high-octane popular music before those schticks get old. Unfortunately for Zookeeper, they're now old. There's nothing really wrong with the movie on a technical level -- the acting is fine, the production values are high and seamless, and the talking animal gig has never worked better -- but it's just not very funny, it doesn't feel fresh, and most viewers will be no better off for having spent 100 or so minutes with it.
Zookeeper Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) loves his job. He also loves Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), who doesn't love Griffin's job. When Griffin proposes, the results are disastrous. He's rejected outright because he doesn't have a job more to Stephanie's liking, but that doesn't deter him from sticking to what he loves to do. Years later, he's still working at the zoo and runs into his old flame at his brother's wedding party. Suddenly, he falls for her all over again and seriously considers leaving the zoo for a more lucrative position at his brother's fancy car dealership, which he believes is the key to winning back the girl of his dreams. But the zoo's animals, all of whom truly like and admire Griffin, will have none of that. To keep him where he belongs, they reveal their hidden talent: the ability to speak. They all try in their own ways to make Griffin a more suitable mate while at the same time keeping him close at hand at the zoo. That is all of the animals save for Bernie (Nick Nolte), a depressed gorilla who refuses to be part of the zoo community. With the help of both the animals and the zoo's kindly veterinarian Kate (Rosario Dawson), Griffin raises his stock with Stephanie, but at what cost to his own core self?
Zookeeper just doesn't have much going for it. Its worst asset is its unoriginality and absence of memorable gags or funny dialogue. Its best asset, however, is probably its heart, its sincerity in what it does, and its enthusiasm in trying to get there, as futile as the effort may be. Zookeeper wears its heart on its sleeve; it's a warm, inviting, friendly movie for sure. It has good themes and a few worthwhile life lessons to share. That it takes something so out of the ordinary for an everyday guy to realize what he has and what his life has been missing is a positive, if not a repetitive positive, but the picture's flat humor and unoriginal structure render most of those pluses useless. Still, one can't help but to admire the film's core values that show an honest, if not somewhat bumbling, guy looking for himself everywhere but where he is. Kevin James excels in these kinds of roles, or at least he excels as far as the script allows. He does his best to make the movie funny -- and he occasionally succeeds -- but the best Comedian in the world is nothing without material, and James just doesn't have much to work with. He's backed up by a strong human cast and plenty of top names voicing the animals, all of whom do a great job, but the hollow script, predictable plot lines, and missed opportunities ultimately reduce the movie from "potentially good" to "painfully average."
There's a correlation between a lost soul and the trapped animals -- particularly the depressed gorilla -- that should have been further explored or fleshed out, because it's there that the movie really could have been something special, something that could have really taken off. Kevin James' character feels trapped, confined, lost, out of his element in the zoo, or so he leads himself to believe in his quest to woo Stephanie. He rejects his contentment in life in the pursuit of something that will upset his balance and leave him worse off, even if he believes the opposite to be true. He feels a need to evolve into something he's not for a dubious benefit, but it's often those fruitless and futile journeys that strengthen a man the most at the end of the day. On the other end of the spectrum are the talking animals that don't often express themselves as they can but are capable of sorting out what they are and where they're meant to be, not to mention understand their nature and use millennia of learned, innate truths to guide them and, by extension, their preferred zookeeper, all qualities that should be found in man (Griffin Keyes) but that are lost due to man's uncanny ability to look for everything but the obvious in life. The film is about -- or at least on some level wants to be about -- the unconventional journey back to nature, reverting to norms, identifying and appreciating the good things in life. That concept never seems fully explored, even if the gorilla character seems the very embodiment of that idea and his and Griffin's trip to T.G.I. Friday's and full circle journey back to the zoo is the essence of what the film has, or wants, to say.
Ultimately, however, Zookeeper drags on with more concern for its humor rather than its heart and underlying purpose. It seems like a missed opportunity, a movie that might have been a little more profound had it been better realized on both page and screen. Placing its laughs first and its greater thematic importance second is the right business move in today's cinematic environment, but both seem to suffer through the film's rather aimless structure that only follows conventional full-circle formula -- set-up, zaniness framed around heartache, the period of self-discovery, and the predictably uplifting and unsurprising finale -- that sacrifices any opportunity to play outside the box in favor of doing things the predetermined easy way. That leaves Zookeeper as just another run-of-the-mill predictable Family Comedy that will probably make the kids laugh and fall in love with their favorite animal characters, but leave adults either not caring or wondering how a movie with a rather strong foundation and opportunity for excellence could blow it so badly. To be clear, this isn't a disastrous movie. It's warm and welcoming, but chances are seasoned cinephiles will watch and move on without any desire to see it again.
Zookeeper Blu-ray, Video Quality
Zookeeper, no surprise, looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Sony's transfer might sport a little banding and a general flatness, but such is the nature of the current state of digital technology; it doesn't have the richness and organic life of film, but the results are nevertheless spectacular for an HD movie. Fine detail is nothing short of exquisite. Griffin's zookeeper shirt, Bernie's complexly textured face and fur, and pretty much anything that appears in frame yields remarkable detailing that's just about as realistic and sharp as anything else out there on Blu-ray. The color palette is a touch warm -- faces, too -- but balance is perfect, every shade is brilliantly natural, and the movie's color scheme reflects the trendy golden/reddish tint that's so predominant these days. Black levels are flawless, true to life, and yield no signs of crush and no unnaturally gray or washed out appearance. The print is, of course, digitally pristine, and aside from that banding, there's nothing else technically wrong with the transfer. Another week, another excellent 1080p transfer from Sony.
Zookeeper Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Zookeeper's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack delivers a satisfying, if not forgettable, listening experience. It's technically proficient -- no surprise there -- but there's only so much it has to work with, leaving it as one of those tracks that kind of goes in both ears but that the brain quickly forgets, but only because there's nothing worth remembering about it. Musical delivery is just fine, yielding fantastic clarity and natural spacing across the front. The surrounds aren't extensively utilized, but there's still a good, natural balance that effortlessly fills the soundstage. The popular music truly excels, featuring excellent energy and unbeatable clarity. Ambience is minimal but effective; little atmospheric noises nicely set the stage in the various zoo shots, and busier social engagement scenes feature a fair bit of bustling activity, but the listener never truly becomes completely immersed in either environment. For the most part, however, this is a talk-heavy film, and dialogue reproduction is smooth and plays without hitch through the center channel. This is a high quality but sonically unremarkable soundtrack from Sony.
Zookeeper Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Zookeeper contains a series of featurettes, a collection of deleted scenes, and a gag reel.
Zookeeper Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Zookeeper is fairly representative of modern Family Comedy. It's predictable to a fault, not particularly funny, mostly unoriginal, and built on a premise that might have made it something special but that fades into the background in favor of physical gags that fall flat and verbal humor that's not going to get much play. Kevin James is as good as he can be in the role, his supporting cast is fine, and the production values are quite good, but the sad truth is that Zookeeper just doesn't have what it takes to make it as a standout in a crowded Family Comedy field. Where the film does shine, however, is on Blu-ray. Sony's done it again, delivering tip-top technical specs and a decent assortment of extras. Definitely worth a rental for the kids, and fans can buy with confidence.
Zookeeper: Other Editions
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Zookeeper Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Zookeeper Blu-ray - August 29, 2011
This fall, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release Zookeeper on Blu-ray. Kevin James (Hitch) stars in the film as Griffin Keyes, a zookeeper who learns that the animals in his care can talk and want to help him court the woman of his dreams (Leslie Bibb, ...
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