ZOOKEEPER Director: Frank Coraci ( The Wedding Singer ) Stars: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson and the voices of Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Judd Apatow, Cher, Don Rickles Watch the animals, and allow for human error
Kevin holds key to animal kingdom.
THERE are elements of this dipsy comedy for kids that work wonderfully well.
Unfortunately none of them directly involve Zookeeper’s leading man Kevin James, who sluggishly serves up the same large-boned, lovelorn loser he played in his unlikely 2009 hit
Paul Blart: Mall Cop. First, let’s focus on the good stuff. The setting is a busy metropolitan zoo, where the animals have broken an ancient secret code and started speaking to humans. Well, one human anyway ( James as the dumpy Doc Doolittle, hero of the hour).
Worried their best two-legged buddy is going to take a job elsewhere because he can’t find a good woman, the critters band together to dispense some quite amusing, species-specific dating advice.
The voice cast wrangled for this madcap menagerie is in first-class form throughout Zookeeper. Yes, they have all of the best lines but they don’t mangle a single one.
So take a bow Adam Sandler ( as a monkey, what else?), Judd Apatow ( elephant), Jon Favreau ( bear), Sylvester Stallone and Cher ( married lions), Don Rickles ( frog) and last but not least Nick Nolte ( as a gorilla that goes to a bar to celebrate his birthday). All of the above are the reason most children below highschool age will extract a decent enough time from this sappy affair.
Just who will be amused by James mugging and hugging his way into the heart of a good woman – Rosario Dawson ( both pictured)?
In your dreams, Kevin – is a question that cannot be answered.
ACTOR Kevin James has traded The Fresh Prince of Bel Air for The Italian Stallion.
In Hitch, James got help with the ladies from Will Smith but he’s turned to Sylvester Stallone for his latest movie Zookeeper.
Stallone voices Joe the lion, who, along with other zoo animals, breaks his code of silence to give some dating advice to zookeeper Griffin Keyes ( James).
An all-star cast signed on to play the animals, including Adam Sandler ( monkey), Cher ( lioness) and Nick Nolte ( Bernie the gorilla).
As a co-writer and producer on Zookeeper, James ( pictured) said he was able to get to know all of the voice cast.
‘‘ I got to meet most of them. Adam I’m obviously great friends with and he was fantastic,’’ he said.
‘‘ Stallone I’d met a couple of times before but he was nice enough to do the movie and Cher, who I’d never met, she was great.’’
James said about 95 per cent of the animals on set were real.
‘‘ We wanted to go with real animals because we wanted real reactions with them. It just doesn’t look the same when it’s CGI,’’ James said.
‘‘ A lot of the time [ with CGI], it feels like it’s very falsely put together.’’
He learnt that working with animals could have its hazards. ‘‘ The elephant peed on me,’’ he said. ‘‘ That was fun, that was an afternoon.’’ From that moment, he joked, the elephant became his favourite zoo animal.
‘‘ Right after she peed on me,’’ he said. ‘‘ I felt a special connection.
‘‘ After you pee on me, I think I’m yours for life. That’s just the way I am.’’
While the elephant peeing scene did not make the final cut of the movie, James still did a lot of physical comedy.
A list of painful scenes included him running face first into a steel pole, getting jabbed by a porcupine barb and riding a bicycle down a set of stairs.
‘‘ Once in a while you get banged up a little bit,’’ James said. ‘‘ But that’s what you’ve got a stunt double for, to make sure he’s feeling your pain.’’
To soften these blows was Rosario Dawson, who played zookeeper Kate and one of zookeeper Griffin’s love interests.
Dawson is well known for her dramatic roles but tackled new territory in Zookeeper with a comedic part. James said she was a huge surprise. ‘‘ When first her name came up, we didn’t want to go with her because we didn’t think she did much comedy,’’ he said.
‘‘ But she insisted. We met with her and she was actually really funny and charming and fantastic and, of course, she’s beautiful. We went with her and she added so much to the movie. We’re glad we did.’’