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Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/11/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/10/2011
Back when Adam Sandler movies were still funny, they were undeniably
formulaic. Sandler would play a character who was a lot like Adam Sandler in
each one -- they would simply give him a different vocation or activity. Billy
Madison and Happy Gilmore are very similar. Robbie Hart and Bobby Boucher
required a bit more "acting" from Sandler, but they were still simply him being
goofy. Sandler's films have now become pale imitations of movies, so he's
apparently passed this particular torch to Kevin James. In Paul Blart: Mall
Cop, James played a bumbling security guard. Now, in Zookeeper, James
plays the title character. If only they could get someone to play screenwriter.
James stars in Zookeeper as Griffin Keyes, a man who works as, yep, you guessed it, a zookeeper. As the movie opens, we see him propose to Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), who turns him down because he's just a zookeeper. The story then leaps ahead five years, where we find Griffin still working at the zoo. He loves his job and he's good at it, but he's lonely. He especially likes working with vet Kate (Rosario Dawson). When a wedding shower is thrown for Griffin's brother (Nat Faxon) at the zoo, Stephanie shows up. The animals overhear both Griffin and Stephanie talking about what its like to see one another again. These animals, who can talk, have a meeting and decide that as they like Griffin, they will help him. When their plan goes awry, Joe the Lion (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) loses his cool and yells at Griffin. Hearing an animal talk frightens Griffin, but when he calms down, he meets with the animals, fascinated by the fact that they can talk. Now that their secret is out, the animals agree to show Griffin how to be an alpha male.
When the trailer for Zookeeper premiered, my first thoughts turned to the aforementioned thoughts that the movie was just another version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. My seconds thoughts were that the movie looked awful. Thus, when it came time to watch the Blu-ray Disc for this review, I was sort of dreading it. (And my family wasn't crazy about the fact that I'd invited (forced) them along with me.) So, I was very surprised to find that the first act of the movie didn't stink. The opening, with the failed proposal, was interesting. Once the action turned to the zoo, and the talking animals, I thought that things would go downhill. Knowing that this is a Happy Madison production, I expected things to quickly skew towards crude and stupid. However, the animals were surprisingly more silly and cute. Combine this with James natural comic ability and likeability and the result was a movie which began to grown on me. The relationship between Griffin and Bernie the Gorilla (voiced by Nick Nolte) was especially nice.
But, then the second half Zookeeper arrived and it appears that none of the five (yes, five) writers involved could come up with an original idea, and the movie suddenly seemed to be challenging itself to see how many times it could reach its low point, with the TGI Fridays scene and the wedding scene battling it out for this title. The second half of the movie is just incredibly different from the first, as Zookeeper goes from between goofy and family appropriate to a movie which offers themes and ideas which will not appeal to kids. The few laughs which were present in the first act come to a screeching halt, and the third act becomes insultingly predictable.
Following some very successful test screenings, Columbia Pictures had so much confidence in Zookeeper that they moved it to a prime Summer spot. The question is, what was happening at those test screenings? Zookeeper was never going to be a great film, but the opening shows promise which is quickly squashed. In Hitch, Kevin James showed that he can be perfect as the bumbling everyman, but that talent gets lost here amongst a hackneyed story which grasps at more and more cliches as the finale approaches.
Zookeeper proves once again that Ken Jeong never goes home on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 26 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably reds and greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, most notably in the animal close ups, as we can see their fur very clearly. However, the image is a bit flat, and doesn't have the nice depth that we've seen on some Blu-rays. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a fairly good audio track for a film of this nature. We get solid stereo and surround effects, most notably in the crowd and party scenes. The scenes with all of the animals offer nicely detailed surround sound and moments such as the elephant walking bring nice subwoofer effects.
The Zookeeper Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. We begin with eight DELETED SCENES which run about 12 minutes. There are a few interesting moments here, such as when Griffin wanders the zoo trying to get various animals to talk. "Laughing is Contagious" is a 6-minute gag reel. "Bernie the Gorilla" (7 minutes) examines the creature effects work from Woodruff and Gillis which went into building the gorilla suit. "The Cast of Zookeeper" (9 minutes) contains interviews with the cast who discuss their characters and what it was like working with the other actors. "Creating the Visual Effects" (9 minutes) is a three-part featurette which looks at the movie magic which was used to make the animals look like they were talking, how it appeared that all of the animals were together, and how James was able to look like he was riding an ostrich. Visual Effects Supervisor Peter Travers provides audio commentary to clips and effects footage, explaining how the effects were layered. "Behind the Stunts" (5 minutes) shows how James did many of his own stunts. "The Furry Co-Stars" (6 minutes) takes us on-set to show what it was like for the actors to work with live animals. "Be the Bear" (2 minutes) shows one of the huge bears used in the film being trained. (And apparently the bear is hard of hearing.) Hang around for the joke here.
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long