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Zookeeper

Sony Pictures

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Zookeeper
Directed by Frank Coraci
Sony Pictures
Opens June 8
Kevin James is a pratfalling jackass coached by talking animals in the ways of love in Zookeeper, a comedy whose cliché-embracing stupidity borders on the surrealistic. Marrying the kiddie fantasy of Dr. Dolittle with the man-child goofiness of producer Adam Sandler's oeuvre, Frank Coraci's drab-looking film charts Boston zoo warden Griffin's (James) efforts to woo bitchy former fiancée Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) via the amorous advice of, among others, a lion (Sylvester Stallone), lioness (Cher), and monkey (a funny-voiced Sandler). That quest involves so many hoary conventions that the story would seem downright parodic if not for its willful dimness. When not smashing into walls and plummeting into pits, Griffin's heart is torn between materialistic Stephanie and kind co-worker Kate (Rosario Dawson), but the tale's true central relationship is between Griffin and morose gorilla Bernie (Nick Nolte). Their mushy bromance—or is it gromance?—involves staring at the stars while lying on top of a van and scaling a bridge during a race-to-the-airport finale, though its highlight is an early sequence in which Bernie laments humans' penchant for lying and then wonders, "Is T.G.I. Friday's as incredible as it looks?" It's a sequence of such mind-boggling bizarreness that it's unclear if this is the crazy Nolte's career apex or nadir. Nick Schager
 
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