Out of all the films of the summer that I could have soaked up a screening for, it turned out to be Zookeeper. I happened to be in the right place at the right(?) time and had the opportunity to take a look at the latest Kevin James vehicle about a lowly zookeeper who’s love life is scrutinized by the zoo’s talking animals. I haven’t sold you on this film yet? Don’t worry, I wasn’t sold either at first glance.

Oddly enough this tale turns out to be a charming little romp for a few hours. There is nothing that should come as surprise in the film, as everything about this film follows a very strict formula. With that in mind the film makers have found a way of creating a cross between Dr. Doolittle and Hitch that seems to win over an audience in an odd sort of way.

Probably the most brutal part of the film is Kevin James pretty much playing Kevin James. There is no depth to the character. He’s the guy from King of Queens in a zoo. He oddly enough spends most of the film wearing a Khaki shirt and shorts. I had to remind myself that he wasn’t delivering packages all day only to return home to his wife who talks down to him but instead was a single, yet charming zookeeper in this role. James plays the same old awkward role he has always played in every movie he has been in thus far. I could go on, but if you’ve seen even an episode of King of Queens or any film he has starred in you have pretty much dialed into his performance pretty well.

The talking animals seem to stand out as the best performances, but maybe it is just because I couldn’t help but enjoy Sly Stallone as a talking lion. The film features a long voice cast list in the roles of talking animals with names such as Maya Rudolph, Joe Rogan, Judd Appatow, Don Rickles, Jon Favreau and Cher. Adam Sandler chimes in to play the voice of a tiny capuchin monkey who sounds exactly like every Adam Sandler voice since 1999. Basically, think Billy Madison as a chimp and you’ve figured out the depth of this little guy. In a bizzare turn, Nick Nolte takes on the voice of a old gorilla who befriends Kevin James’ character and sneaks out for a night on the town with him. Nolte is a great fit for the voice, as his slow talking, grizzled voice adds to this primates charm.

The screening I was at unfortunately was for a group of adults who just really were not embracing the film for what it was. Many of them went in looking for a comedy, but were a little put off by the family friendly approach. To those people I have to ask if they really thought Zookeeper was going to be the next Hangover film? It’s geared toward a specific audience and will play really well to that audience. The talking animals are cute, Kevin James is the lovable husky guy and there is a villianous other zookeeper played by none other than Donnie Wahlberg. The CG work is average, the story is recycled and the plot points stay on exactly on track as you expect them to be.

I had fun with Zookeeper. Yes, I actually did. It’s a fun family film and I’d suggest it for a matinee at the movies, or even a rental if you are looking for a family flick. If you’ve just left The Hangover 2 and are looking for another great comedy, Zookeeper is most likely not going to be your thing. Chances are if you’re looking for a good first date movie and you choose Zookeeper chances are high that you’re not getting a second date (unless she picked it). The point is, Zookeeper is what it is. It knows who it is trying to reach, what it is trying to achieve and has fun doing it in the process. A lot of critics trash films that aren’t made for them. I can recognize that Zookeeper wasn’t made with me solely in mind. The kids will love it and parents aren’t going to want to gouge their eyes out with a spork when they are forced to tag along. ¬†And sometimes as a parent, what more could you ask for from a family flick?

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