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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - LEIGH PAATSCH

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.’’

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