2011-07-08

Zookeeper – Change Is Good, The Movie Is Not

by Yo Snyder

Sometimes all it takes is the right actor to make a movie work. Could
anyone else truly have been Indiana Jones? One of my reactions to this movieAnd even if they were, would
that film have worked as well as it did with anyone other than Harrison
Ford? We’ll never know, and that’s a good thing. One thing I do know,
without Kevin James, Zookeeper would not be a keeper of any kind.
It’s the kind of juvenile, mediocre comedy that’s instantly forgettable
and actually pretty dumb, but James is so likeable and funny that he
makes this movie passably entertaining. I still think you should pass on
it, but if you do happen to get drag to it, Kevin James almost makes it
worth it…almost.

This is supposed to be a romantic comedy, I guess, but the object of
James’ affection in the movie is so annoying that the whole premise just
doesn’t work for me. Why would he want to be with this girl? She’s the
worst cliche of a high school, flighty, brainless cheerleader stereotype
you can imagine; and she isn’t even in high school. Supposedly she’s a
grown woman, not that you could ever tell by the way she acts. In any
event, it makes it kind of hard to care about James’ efforts to win her
over because you really don’t want it to happen and you just can’t wait
for him to inevitably realize she’s not the right girl for him; duh.
Granted some funny stuff happens along the way, mostly due to the
efforts of Kevin James, but man that girl was annoying and it made the
very standard romantic comedy set-up much more challenging to endure
then it should have been.

The other problem is the animals. They aren’t all that lovable, they
really aren’t all that helpful, and they really aren’t all that
interesting – a cardinal sin for a movie who’s key selling point is
animals that talk. It’s like someone had the idea for a zoo where the
animals talk but weren’t sure what to do with that idea or with the
animals when they talked. There’s one pretty good scene involving a
TGIFridays and a gorilla, and if the movie had more of those kinds of
moments, it could have been a lot of fun; silly but fun. But it didn’t,
and so it isn’t. And although I understand the ridiculous nature of
their advice on how to win a mate is supposed to be a good gag, they’re
advice is so ludicrous it’s hard to believe that anyone would follow it
so literally; no matter how desperate they are to get with the wrong
person. Again, there could have been some funny material here, and
occasionally there is, but for the most part it’s more miss than hit.

Fortunately, Kevin James’ character eventually realizes what a dunce
he’s been, and that he doesn’t need to be somebody different just to
impress a girl. In fact, he was happy just being himself. A rather trite
lesson at this point, one that’s been heard millions of times in
millions of movies just like this one, but I also think it’s a point
that isn’t entirely accurate. Truth is we shouldn’t just be content with
who we are, we should want to be better. Not better by being like
someone else, but a better version of who we are. It’s been well said
that God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let
us just stay the way we are. We don’t need to change who we are in order
to be God’s friend, but as that relationship grows, we will change. We
will become more and more who we were really meant to be, we’ll become
more and more the best version of ourselves. The fact of the matter is
that change, the right kind of change, can be very good for us. And
while it’s true that we shouldn’t ever let someone else change us into
who they think we should be, we should let God change us, because he’s
the only one who really knows who we were made to be.

Zookeeper is not a good movie, but it’s made better through
the virtue of the talent of Kevin James. He carries this movie from
beginning to end, and without him it would have been a complete
disaster. It still teeters in that direction, but the wit and charm and
physical comedy of James makes some parts quite funny and the movie as a
whole at least somewhat enjoyable. I enjoyed this movie better when it
starred Will Smith as the one giving the romance advice more than the
talking animals. Truth is, one of the characters in the movie summed it
up best; referring to one of the many contrived situations of the film
and how to so-called adults were acting, she said, “This is so junior
high.” Yup, that’s it. From the silly potty humor to the silly contrived
situations to the silly talking animals, this whole movie is so
junior high, and that’s probably the audience it will appeal most to.
The rest of us should just wait for the Netflix version or when it shows
up on TV.