After being unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend 5 years ago, zookeeper Griffin Keyes has the chance to rekindle their romance. With the help of some talking animals, he sets out to win back her heart, even if he has to make some changes along the way.

Zookeeper (2011) – Director: Frank Coraci

Is This Movie Suitable review Zookeeper

Rating: PG

Running Length: 102 mins

Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb

Genre: Comedy

 

REVIEW

Zookeeper had the promise to be a sweet children’s comedy movie that would also appeal to an adult’s sense of humour. Unfortunately this promise is broken by the lacklustre story, mediocre script and generally poor voice actors. Kevin James is fun to watch as Griffin but his relationship with the superficial Stephanie is unbelievable and the attraction that the lovely Kate feels towards him is equally baffling. Griffin is just a very ordinary guy who likes animals. There is no spark between him and either of his female co-stars. His average appearance is never a challenge to be overcome, it is just somehow accepted that women find him attractive, regardless of what he is actually doing.

The main selling point for many children will be the talking animals, but unfortunately the poor quality of the voice acting means that it can be very uncomfortable to watch. The initial scene that introduces the concept of animals engaging in conversation is so jarring to the ears that it is difficult to concentrate on what they are actually saying! The monkey’s voice, courtesy of Adam Sandler, is unnecessarily aggressive and the way this supposedly comedic (but borderline racist) ‘Mexican’ accent blares out of the cute, child friendly monkey just makes the whole movie take on an unpleasant tone.

The motivations of the characters are also confusing. It is clear that the animals know that Stephanie ended her relationship with Griffin because she wanted him to leave the zoo, and it is also clear that they want Griffin to stay. So far, so normal. What is inexplicable is how, without any form of change or character development, everybody on-screen finds that their mind has been changed for no particular reason. It is this lack of sense that makes Zookeeper feel more like a bunch of set pieces someone thought up in advance which was then strung together by the thinnest of plot excuses to link it all together. Essentially, this is a movie about spectacle, not substance. There isn’t always anything wrong with that so long as the spectacle offers full entertainment value, but even by the base circumstances that ‘Zookeeper’ is shooting for, any entertainment on offer here is fleeting at best.

IS ‘ZOOKEEPER’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The PG rating suggests that this is a movie which is suitable for the whole family, provided that a parent (or other) adult is present to supervise in case of any unsuitable content, we would generally agree with this but would like to highlight the following points.

The character of Venom (played by Ken Jeong) is described as a rather sleazy character. He is very tactile and takes pleasure from touching people (particularly women) and from people touching him. One scene shows him letting Griffin borrow his car and makes Griffin put his hands in both of his pockets in order to retrieve his keys (having deliberately pointing him to the wrong pocket first). This seem a little inappropriate for a PG film and Venom feels like a character that would have been the source of much puerile humour had this been an older ‘gross-out’ movie, but was so cut down for a younger audience that his character appears to have no point at all.

The level of innuendo also comes across as mostly unnecessary for a PG movie. In one scene, the bears are trying to show Griffin how to walk with confidence and say that this is how they would ‘take down a female’. They also say how ‘Canadian bears are wild’ while talking about females and tell Griffin that he should show off his ‘pudding cup’ (crotch) when he walks. This lazy script writing makes it feel like you’re just watching a pair of jocks showing off about their latest conquests rather than it being a witty and fun moment that could portray the animals as knowing very little about human interactions. Another (human) character also describes a time during his relationship with Stephanie and after humiliating Griffin, saying that they ‘made out, hard’. It is difficult to miss the implication of this! ‘Zookeeper’ comes across as a movie to which ‘getting the girl’ is a macho competition which, in its desperation to flex its muscles and strike a pose, has no time to accommodate any genuine emotion.

One scene features a wolf who is explaining that females like males to mark their territory. Griffin is then encouraged to urinate against a tree. While he is doing this, two female colleagues walk by and see him. To save face, he convinces them that the wolf was stung by a scorpion and his urine is neutralising the poison. In order to continue this charade, he then has to urinate on the wolf. This scene cuts away before anything happens and we are then shown Griffin giving the (rather unhappy) wolf a bath.

There is a very sexist feel to the overall plot of this movie and one particularly unpleasant part sees Griffin being convinced by the animals that women should be treated badly. He is then seen to insult and be very controlling towards Stephanie who responds positively to this mild but unsettling abuse and becomes keen to restart their relationship on this basis. We are concerned that the message of ‘Zookeeper’ is that not only is being abusive towards women something that yields positive results, but that it will increase your confidence (as the previously nice-guy Griffin realises he enjoys getting away with such behaviour and ‘winning’ what he wants). This is especially damaging for any children who are watching as this scene is the only time that Stephanie really wants to be with him.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

Overall, this movie should be suitable for most children in that there is no real violence, nudity or fear. However there are several mixed messages in the plot which may confuse some and raise questions that adults may need to explain. Zookeeper generally feels like someone wanted to make a ‘gross-out’ movie but has had to tone it down to be acceptable to a wider audience. Unfortunately it seems like Coraci has taken what could have been a charming family movie and turned it into something which has lost its spark and  instead churning out a bland, boring story with some frankly unpleasant undertones.

Due to the general message of the movie, we wouldn’t recommend ‘Zookeeper’ for children under 8 although even for those aged 9 and above an adult may wish to be present in order to explain any confusing moments.

  • Violence: 1/5 (Griffin is comically whipped with a thin metal pole by his rival but soon gets the better of him. A child falls into the bear pit after taunting them and it is subtly mentioned that if Griffin wasn’t there to help, the bears would have killed the boy)
  • Emotional Distress: 1/5 (one animal describes some abuse he suffered at the hands of another zookeeper who had a stick with a nail in it. This isn’t strong and shouldn’t be unsettling for children)
  • Fear Factor: 0/5
  • Sexual Content: 0/5 (although there is a sexist undertone, there is no nudity or direct sexual content)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (some mild profanity)
  • Dialogue: 3/5 (the sexist plotline and some of the dialogue from the animals is rather crass)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of being yourself, caring for animals and not settling for second best.

Words by Laura Record

Zookeeper [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]


New From: £1.69 GBP In Stock

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