Bottom of the Bottle: Zookeeper
Primary Ignition would like to introduce to you a new type of column, one where dreams go to die. The life of a critic isn’t all fun and games, folks. From time to time, we see something so awful, so horrendous, that unfortunately it puts us in a state of depression only cured by the euphoria provided by a good rant. And thus, Bottom of the Bottle is born.
STARRING: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Steffiana De La Cruz
FEATURING THE VOICE TALENTS OF: Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Maya Rudolph, Bas Rutte
STUDIO: Happy Madison Productions, Relativity Media, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Columbia Pictures
RUN TIME: 104 min
RELEASED: July 8, 2011
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
I occasionally go to a drive-in with my friends, including a couple of writers on this very site. The reason we go there is because it’s cheap — it’s a double feature, and admission is only $9 a head for adults, and going to the drive-in is always an experience of its own anyways. We usually take it a step further than most patrons do by bringing in our own air mattresses, stereo system and other assorted items. And those of us who like to drink end up getting hammered if we so desire. All around, my friends and I usually have a great time.
The downside to any of this is that sometimes we have to deal with an awful movie, which is usually the second feature. However, drinkers and non-drinkers alike have a good time ripping on the bad movie. There have been a couple of movies that were so bad that we nearly couldn’t keep up with making fun of the film. We stood tall and proud in the face of the bad movies in question!
That was until we came across Zookeeper, a film so horrendous that it caused me to get wasted out of my mind in grief. Look, I knew the movie was going to suck, and I even had a good amount of booze flowing through my veins to properly prepare for the disaster that was about to take place on screen. I still left the drive in (with a designated driver, of course) angry and violated. Not only was Zookeeper the worst piece of trash that I have ever seen at the drive in, but it has earned its place in my top ten worst films off all time.
I should clarify at this point that I realize that I probably shouldn’t take a “fun family comedy” so seriously, but some of the shit featured in this film was so god damned baffling I wouldn’t be surprised I lost more brain cells from the movie and not the vodka.
The film opens with this dumb blonde woman — the Zookeeper’s “girlfriend” — dumping him when he proposes to her. She refuses simply because she is bothered by the fact that he’s a zookeeper. That’s it. Within the first couple of minutes, I already have a huge problem with this movie. While dumb blonde explains that he thought he would change, there is no way someone that shallow would ever date a person in that position to begin with, especially if they looked like Kevin James. No offense to Mr. James, but women like the one featured in this film usually go for some meathead who spend their lives preying on guys like Kevin James, making sure they bench ten times for every cheese burger he eats, to prove they are the alpha male. By the way, I’m not even going to refer to him by his character’s name, because let’s face it, does anyone really give a shit? His name is Kevin James!
Flash forward five years later, and he is still working in the zoo, but Rosario Dawson works there too! Hey, any guesses who Kevin James is going to end up with by the end of this film? Anyway, he is still hung up on his ex, but now he has the opportunity to work at his brother’s car dealership. However, he is torn on making the decision because he honestly loves his job as a zookeeper. But, UH-OH! The blonde runs into James at a zoo function and sparks seem to fly again! Maybe he should take the dealership job after all!
THEN WHOA!! ANOTHER CURVE BALL IS THROWN!! Animals can talk and they let Kevin James know they want him to stay since he is such a nice dude! Why can they talk in this movie? Because they can. Why don’t they talk? I don’t know, I guess it breaks some sort of code. Um…okay. I honestly thought this movie would go the Doctor Dolittle route and make it so only the main character can communicate with the animals. I seriously would have been fine with a half-assed explanation like this: Kevin James has such awesome zookeeper skills, he has earned some sort of unexplainable higher power. Is that stupid? Oh, yeah. However, I maintain that it’s better than the lazy reason this movie came up with, which is that animals have always been able to communicate in perfect English! Really?
This begs the question: if animals could always communicate with humans, then why don’t they do so? Life would be easier for them! I’m not a member of PETA or anything, but humans do tend to give animals a raw deal for the most part. You’re telling me that thousands of animals can talk, but no cow or pig at a slaughter house has screamed, “I can’t fucking take this anymore! Stop killing us all!” Even the most heartless butcher in the world would have second thought of his choice in career. Keep in mind that when I thought of stuff like this, I was drunk out of my mind. You could probably smell my breath from several yards away. I almost wish I saw Zookeeper sober just to see if there was any more stupid shit I would have spotted.
Of course what follows are HI-LAR-I-OUS antics of Kevin James falling down more than my own drunk ass that night due to animal advice. Of course, this advice is supposed to help him win back his dumb blond ex, and they give him literal tips that animals actually do in the wild. A clever film would have either have Kevin James interpret the advice to apply to humans, or have the animals do it for him. Nope! Not in Zookeeper! A wolf tells him to piss on something to mark his territory, and by God we get to witness him pissing on a plant at a public function! He even gets caught and doesn’t get thrown out! WHY?!
Around this point, I stopped pouring myself drinks and just went straight to the bottle. I already hit rock bottom, so there was no saving my dignity anymore. I don’t clearly remember why for some strange reason, but Kevin James proceeded to grab two drapes, fly around the room, and — you’ll never guess what — run into someone! I forgot to mention that by this point there was the typical bully character (played by Joe Rogan) that is also seeking the heart of the dumb blonde. Again, Kevin James tries to take the advice of an animal in the most literal way to defend his honor. Of course this means squatting like a frog and trying to puff out. I guess this is supposed to be funny?
As said before, this movie is for kids, so maybe I shouldn’t be so harsh. However, another thing I noticed in my drunken haze is that I didn’t hear a single child’s laughter throughout the whole picture. No matter what movies play at the drive-in, there are always (sometime literal) truckload of kids. This night was no exception. If a person who is good at physical comedy, like Kevin James, fails to make a child laugh he has truly failed.
There’s also a sequence where Kevin James brings a fucking gorilla out to TGI Friday’s. He literally throws him a shirt and tells staff and patrons that they came from a costume party. When asked why the gorilla looks so realistic, he simply said that the costume involves a lot of wires and stuff. I’ll give the movie the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe a couple of people might buy that story. I mean, the gorilla is talking freely as a part of his cover, and people would be more suspicious if the gorilla didn’t talk. But this movie is seriously going to try to pass off that not one person saw through the disguise? Hey, what about a customer that walked when the gorilla is sitting there eating fifty oranges he ordered (that really happens)? Wouldn’t the customer flip the fuck out and call animal control? I can’t buy any of this! It’s too stupid!
Maybe some of you don’t think those scenes were that bad. Well, allow me to explain the last third of the movie then. Kevin James does end up working at the dealership on the side to impress the dumb blonde. He quickly has a knack for it while using the techniques the animals taught him to be very successful. Obviously, Kevin James turns into a douche and decides to leave the zoo after all. The animals are seriously surprised at this turn of events.
Seriously. Think about this.
The animals knew that Kevin James got dumped by the dumb blonde because he was a zookeeper. So what’s their plan when Kevin James has a second chance at the dumb blond? TRY TO HELP HIM WIN BACK THE WOMAN WHO HATES HIS JOB AS A ZOOKEEPER!! What did they think was going to happen?! Their plan should have been to convince him to hook up with Rosario Dawson, but no, Zookeeper had to try to keep us on our toes and make us think that he might win the dumb blonde back when Dawson was the obvious fit for him. Give me a break.
At the very end of the movie, Kevin James suddenly realizes that he should stay with the zookeeper gig, and that Rosario Dawson is his true love or something. But OH NO!! She is on her way to Africa because the film needed a reason for Kevin James to chase her down with the gorilla. But first they had to stop by the house of an abusive zookeeper so Kevin James can punch him. Whoops, I guess they almost forgot to close that subplot!
Then something happens that made me genuinely laugh. Rosario Dawson’s cab is caught in a traffic jam on a bridge. I’m not kidding, I lost my shit laughing because not only did the film totally erase any pathetic tension it might have had, but Kevin James and the Gorilla are still rushing towards the taxi swinging around the bars like Dawson had any chance of getting off the bridge anytime soon. The next step in the master plan was to drop Kevin James from a fatal height so he can win Rosario Dawson’s heart.
But it turns out Rosario is really Cthulu. She reveals her true form under the pale moonlight and devours the rest of humanity in one gulp. She then throws the gorilla at the moon because it sounds too much like Nick Nolte. At least that’s how Zookeeper should have ended because that would have made more sense than any other scene in this movie!
This film is deplorable. It manages to make other predictable flicks seem like masterfully written psychological thrillers. I feel like less of a human being thanks to Zookeeper. It has erased my desire to go back to the drive-in. I don’t even want to see another movie because of my horrific experience! It’s the same sensation you may feel after getting in a car accident. You know that you won’t get into an accident every time you drive, but the negative experience makes you want to avoid the same actions.
Later that night, my friends and I got pulled over by a state trooper. Thankfully, the reason we were stopped was a case of mistaken identity, but I have a feeling he knew we saw Zookeeper and simply wanted to fuck with us. I couldn’t even have sex or masturbate later! What? Too much information? You feel a little dirty for reading that? Good! Now you know how awkward I felt after being mindraped by that film.
RATING: Too Drunk And Pissed Off To Care/10
All stills originally from rottentomatoes.com.