Film Review: Zookeeper

Zookeeper is pretty much what you would you would expect from a film starring Kevin James and produced by Adam Sandler. It is mildly entertaining fare, and not as funny as it should be.

Griffin is a zookeeper at Franklin Park Zoo. Five years ago, he had his heart broken by Stephanie when she turned down his marriage proposal. She is back on the scene in the run up to Griffin’s brother’s wedding, but Griffin is clueless about how to act. His beloved animals see this, and reveal a crucial secret: they can speak. The animals make it their duty to help Griffin with his love life…

Zookeeper follows a strict formula, which makes it predictable. Director Frank Coraci relies on stock archetypes to populate his film. Both the humans and the animals are very stereotypical, offering little in terms of innovation. Zookeeper is very much by the numbers, which would not be much of a problem if the film was funnier.

As it stands, the film lacks consistent humour. There are a few fairly amusing moments, but the film can never be described as hilarious. Many of the jokes rely upon the personalities of the animals. If you do not find these characters amusing, you are unlikely to find the humour funny.

Despite the presence of talking animals, perhaps what is most difficult to believe is that two very attractive women would be in a love triangle with Kevin James. This may seem like a shallow contention, but the women are both very attractive. Moreover, Griffin is not a particularly charming character. He is a nice guy, but he does not have a fantastic personality. And, for the misfortune of the two female characters and the entire audience, Griffin is not funny.

The casting in Zookeeper is hit and miss. Sylvester Stallone and Cher are most appropriate as the lions Joe and Janet. Nick Nolte brings some presence to the film as Bernie the gorilla. Adam Sandler, however, is abominable as Donald the monkey. The character has some of the best lines, which are ruined by Sandler’s sub-par delivery. Kevin James delivers his usual routine as Griffin, while Leslie Bibb is suitably one-dimensional as Stephanie. Rosario Dawson is decent, but restricted by her underdeveloped role.

Zookeeper does offer good special effects as well as some great animal actors. Nevertheless, it lacks the humour really required in a film such as this.

Film Review: Burlesque

It is a little disappointing that Burlesque does not fall into the ‘it’s so bad, it’s good’ category, despite its casting and premise. Sure, the plot is predictable and the writing uninspired, but the musical numbers are incredibly fun and overall Burlesque is an enjoyable enough movie.

Small-town girl Ali buys a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, with dreams of making it big. She finds a job waitressing at a burlesque club run by Tess, who is having financial difficulties. Ali dreams of performing on the stage, while Tess is desperate for a solution to her difficulties…

Given a renaissance by the likes of Dita von Teese, burlesque seems a ripe subject for a film. Christina Aguilera is a sound choice for the protagonist. She has the look and the attitude necessary, together with a tremendous set of lungs. The film is a great showcase for her performing talents, if not for her acting skills. Cher, also, is an appropriate choice for the grand-dame matriarch figure. Yet despite this, Burlesque is not as camp as you might expect; the glitter and garishness are present, but the film lacks flamboyancy.

Burlesque functions as a ‘small-town girl trying to make it big’ movie, very much in the same vein as Coyote Ugly. The storyline is very predictable; there is little innovation in this aspect of the film. Several of the jokes fall flat; although Burlesque tries to be humorous, it does not really succeed. Some of the segue ways prior to the next musical number appear wooden, particularly the introduction to ‘You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’.

Director and writer Steve Antin adds little depth to his characters. Ali is very one-dimensional; precious little is garnered about her background, or what triggers her to make a life-changing move. Likewise, Jack appears to be a very standard love interest for Ali. There is nothing particularly interesting about this character; he functions predominantly as eye candy for the audience (largely made up of women and gay men, presumably).

Where Burlesque excels is in its lavish production numbers. The choreography is fun and enticing, and the music is excellent. The other scenes seem like intermissions before another song; the musical numbers certainly hold the film together. Costume designer Michael Kaplan has created some fantastic costumes, which are pivotal to certain routines.

Christina Aguilera is adequate as Ali; the role is not a great measurement of her acting capabilities. Cher has a commanding presence in the film. Her appearance in musical sequence ‘Welcome to Burlesque’ is a great introduction. Stanley Tucci and Cam Gigandet, meanwhile, do their best given the limitations of the material.

Burlesque is at times by-the-numbers and at other times flashy and entertaining. The film features great production on the musical numbers, and can be described as mediocre at worst in the other scenes.