It's hard to determine the target audience for 'Zookeeper,' a very G-rated family comedy that for some puzzling reason has been deemed PG. What exactly in this movie about zoo animals talking to a lovable blue-collar guy playing a Dr. Doolittle type might not be suitable for children? I just don't know. Anyway, this film starring Kevin James and the lovely Rosario Dawson is completely and utterly harmless to younger viewers. If you know your kid goes bananas at the thought of animals talking, then you know you'll be stuck watching this dud.
In fact, I'd wager the movie is unsuitable and more damaging to the parents than the children. The laughs are pretty much over and done with by the end of the first scene where Griffin's (James) crushing but spectacularly failed marriage proposal to Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) offers a couple chuckles. Those chuckles, however, are mostly due to our shared embarrassment for poor Griffin and not because it's actually funny. Soon after, we just feel embarrassed for James altogether. By the time we hit the half-hour mark, it feels as if it is almost over, but we soon realize there is another 70 minutes of boredom and seat-squirming ahead.
The whole romance aspect of the story is clearly meant for the adults, but it's far too predictable and convenient to actually be enjoyable or remotely satisfying. Filmmakers really push the idea that Griffin literally has no other interests than caring for the four-legged residents of the zoo while also pinning for the last five years over the supermodel-like Stephanie, who realistically is way out of his league. When she tries to make her way back into his life, the animals break their sacred vow to help their otherwise hopeless caretaker tap his inner alpha-male instincts. In doing this, the jokes once again fall flat. It's cute and adorable, I'll admit that much, but the producers seem to have lost their comedic instincts.
Later, and completely out of nowhere, we're suddenly expected to believe Kate (Dawson) is meant to be Griffin's best match, yet there was never any indication either character showed any interest in the other. So, you can pretty much guess where that's going. And it's not good. Of course, I am over thinking a movie meant for the little tykes, but it's surprising to see it took five writers to follow such a trite formula. It's that or they wasted time coming up with various ways of animals to say things that ultimately amount to nothing. Or to simply devise ways for James to physically humiliate himself in a desperate search to be funny.
The biggest laughs come from the reptile handler (Ken Jeong) and Stephanie's overly-masculine new beau, Gale (Joe Rogan). But that's not saying much when those two particular actors are considered the funniest actors in the entire movie. For adults, 'Zookeeper' would serve best as a drinking game where viewers have to guess who's voicing which critter. Sylvester Stallone and Nick Nolte are fairly easy, but the rest are somewhat challenging. Obviously, the game would only be fun in the first viewing, but it would make the movie more bearable. Besides, who would seriously want to watch this a second time?
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings 'Zookeeper' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase. The package also includes Zoo Bucks for the Facebook game, "Zoo World 2," a code for Sony Rewards and a PS3 game demo for 'Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One.' At startup, viewers are greeted with the usual series of previews and Sony's Blu-ray promo. Afterwards, we get the typical main menu options with full-motion clips and music.
'Zookeeper' debuts with a very good 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1), showing a great deal of clarity and warmth.
Shot entirely on HD cameras, the freshly-minted transfer displays a bold, colorful palette with an emphasis towards the redder, softer secondary hues. Cinematographer Michael Barrett ('Everything Must Go,' 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan') seems to want to reproduce the look of actual film, and for the most part, the presentation shows he's done an admirable job. Contrast and brightness are nicely balanced with crisp, clean whites and generally good black levels. Once in a while, the picture can seem a bit too bright and rather hazy while nighttime scenes lose their luster slightly, feeling somewhat flat and bland, but for the most part, the image is attractive.
The transfer also comes with strong definition and fine object detailing, but it's not as sharp as one would expect from a movie shot in HD. It doesn't look terribly weak or disappointing, but there are a few moments of blurriness scattered about. In the end, however, the 'Zookeeper' shows up with very good Blu-ray presentation.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does a fair bit better with several excellent moments of rear activity.
The sounds of birds chirping along with other wild creatures during scenes at the zoo are discrete and convincingly extend the soundfield. It's not quite the sort of presentation comparable to movies with lots of action, but it's a pleasant surprise for a comedy with so many animals. The rest of the lossless mix is carried by the front soundstage where vocals take priority and delivered with excellent fidelity. The other two speakers display great balance and movement, providing the imaging with an appreciable openness and warmth. The mid-range exhibits terrific discernible detail in the few sequences of high action without a hint of distortion in Kevin James's constant, screeching yells. Low bass also comes with a bit of weight and power, but nothing greatly impressive, only appropriate to the genre and the movie's subject matter.
All in all, it's a great high-rez track for an otherwise not so great comedy.
Bonus material is the same found on the DVD release.
'Zookeeper' is the latest "comedy" from Kevin James. It features the very stale formula of talking animals helping a man better himself. For adults, the "jokes" will likely fall flat, but this movie is clearly targeted at little tykes, and will more than likely offer them plenty of humor as they watch the various critters interact with one another. The movie debuts on Blu-ray with very good video and an excellent audio presentation as well as plenty of featurettes that will interest the kids. Overall, the package makes a decent rental, despite the movie not being any good, and parents will be happy to see the little ones entertained for a couple of hours.