Tracy Bennett
Owen Gleiberman
July 13, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Zookeeper

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
runtime
104 minutes
Wide Release Date
07/08/11
performer
Kevin James, Leslie Bibb, Rosario Dawson
director
Frank Coraci
distributor
Columbia Pictures
author
Nick Bakay, Kevin James, David Ronn, Jay Scherick
genre
Comedy

We gave it a B-

Kevin James was fine as an affable sitcom schlub and Adam Sandler sidekick, but when Paul Blart: Mall Cop came out just after the 2008 economic meltdown and became a sleeper smash, he no longer seemed an innocuous loser. Suddenly, he was America’s loser. His puffed-up myopic bravado stood in for a nation whose dreams outstripped its reality. I was hoping James would go on to develop his charismatic fecklessness, but Zookeeper (I can’t believe I’m even writing this) is a dumbed-down Paul Blart.

It starts out as a generic talking-animal comedy, with James’ dweebish zookeeper discovering that the caged residents of Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo can squabble and wisecrack like the Toy Story playthings gone noisily vaudeville (best voices: Adam Sandler’s jabbery Borscht Belt monkey and Maya Rudolph’s imperious, soul-mama giraffe). When he takes the gorilla (Nick Nolte) out for a night at T.G.I. Friday’s, the film briefly soars. But too much of Zookeeper is devoted to James? lovelorn hero learning to accept Who He Really Is by abandoning his fantasy of marrying an icky ice princess (Leslie Bibb). It’s all very ho-hum, though James, who’s like Jason Alexander with a touch of Jeremy Piven, is still a schmo you can’t help rooting for. B-

Check into this and our other highly anticipated summer movies at GetGlue to earn EW Summer Movie stickers.

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