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Zookeeper Review: Describing the Final Moments Before I Blacked Out

By Dustin Rowles | Film | July 8, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | July 8, 2011 |

There’s no point in getting into the details, as a review of Zookeeper will only confirm the obvious. So, instead of belaboring the point, let me just describe to you what I saw on the screen in the minutes before I blacked out.

It started in a T.G.I.Friday’s, where Kevin James was having baby back ribs with a talking gorilla voiced by Nick Nolte. They were at the T.G.I.Friday’s because it was the gorilla’s birthday. The gorilla had been feeling sad ever since it was locked in a below-the-ground closure with no view of the rest of the zoo, which an assistant zookeeper played by Donnie Wahlberg had put him. The gorilla had of course explained all of this to Kevin James’ character, Griffin, who is essentially a bumbling fat guy who falls down a lot and is nervous around women, i.e., every Kevin James character of all time ever. Anyway, the gorilla had said that since he’d been placed in the below-the-ground enclosure, he’d been depressed because he missed the view he once had, which had afforded him a glimpse of T.G.I.Fridays. The gorilla thought it looked like “a fun place to go.” So to cheer him up, Kevin decided to take him there for his birthday.

Why was the gorilla talking to Griffin in the first place? It’s because Griffin had asked a woman played by the untalented Leslie Bibb to marry him, and she had said “no” because she didn’t want to commit her life to a zookeeper. So, a bummed Griffin began to consider leaving the zoo life and getting a respectable job. In turn, all the animals in the zoo began talking to him because Griffin was the only zookeeper who treated the animals with respect, and they didn’t want to lose him as the zookeeper.

Indeed, what I thought would be a live-action Madagascar meets Paul Blart is actually a version of Hitch meets Paul Blart where, instead of Will Smith offering Kevin James relationship advice, talking animals do. The joke, of course, is that dating advice from zoo animals consist largely of the animals teaching him how to scratch his back against a tree, stick out his “pudding cup,” and mark his territory with his urine. Also, the animals have voices of famous people, like Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Jon Favreau, Don Rickles, Jim Breuer, and plenty of other people who are too old to appeal to the target demographic, which is nine-year-olds and ignorami.

Anyway, that’s the A-plot: The animals attempt to instill confidence in Griffin so he can win back his ex-girlfriend, although he ends up taking a veterinarian played by Rosario Dawson to the wedding to make his ex jealous. I’m sure you can guess who he ends up with. I’m assuming it was the veterinarian, but I was passed out so my assumption is simply based on 10 years of predictable Happy Madison plotlines and common fucking sense.

Where was I? The B-plot, with Griffin and the gorilla at T.G.I.Friday’s. Right. So, Griffin decides to sneak the gorilla out of the zoo by giving him a polo shirt and telling everyone the gorilla is actually just a regular guy wearing a costume, which of course is an easy sell because the gorilla speaks. I mean, who is going to believe that a gorilla with the voice of Nick Nole is actually a zoo animal, right? Comedy gold, folks! What does a talking gorilla order at a T.G.I.Fridays? Thirty oranges, of course, which he downs with a lot of drinks (non-alcoholic, I assume). Then there’s a musical montage where Griffin and the gorilla play Foosball, drink some more, get in a game of pool, and hang out with the other customers, which is obviously what happens at a T.G.I.Friday’s, or at least in every T.G.I.Fridays commercial spot I’ve ever seen. The last thing I remember before blacking out was the gorilla slow-dancing with the T.G.I.Friday’s waitress.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that caused me to black out, but I suspect it had something to do with the obscene product placement, the ’70s classic rock that permeates through all of Happy Madison’s films (seriously, is Kansas on his speed dial?), or the deafening silence of a movie theater full of children, young teenagers and parents who must have thought that they’d never experience laughter again. Or maybe it was just the tidal wave of stupidity and laziness crashing down on me from the big screen that knocked me out. It could have simply been the confluence of all those factors, combined with the level of disgust I had for what supposedly passes for entertainment. Or it could have just been my body’s natural defense mechanism shutting me down to spare me from further torture.

Whatever it was, when I woke up, the credits were rolling and a groggy mother behind me was asking her daughter where the bad movie had touched her. The sullen child pointed at her head and drooled a little, suggesting that Kevin James and The Zookeeper had given her mild brain damage. The mother patted her on the head and gave her a Gummy Bear. They probably headed to a T.G.I.Friday’s afterwards.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.