The Zookeeper

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb
Directed by: Frank Coraci (“Click”)
Written by: Nick Bakay (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Kevin James (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Jay Scherick (“Norbit”), David Ronn (“Norbit”), Rock Rueben (debut)

Deep inside the ferocious land of Hollywood, grazing around the talent pool like a fat warthog at a watering hole, a stumpy beast hunkers down waiting to pounce on the first screenplay too weak to defend itself. His eyes dart back and forth as other more agile predators pick off the meatier prey one by one. Suddenly, the creature gets his chance. A scrawny script has been separated from its herd and is helpless. Within seconds, the brute leaps from his squatting position and takes aim. His broad calves push him forward for the kill, but it isn’t meant to be. His feet are caught in the brush and he lands on the ground with his face in the mud.
 
This is what the narration might sound like if the Discovery Channel featured a Kevin James Week.
 
Unfortunately for audiences, James, best known for the TV series “The King of Queens,” which ran for nine seasons before ending in 2007, gets his paws wrapped around more flimsy screenplays than anyone who likes to laugh would hope.
 
Despite his terrible movie choices over the last four years (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Grown Ups”), James is as harmless as a collection of chubby cherubs, which is one reason he continues to get second-rate roles in comedies like “The Zookeeper,” another dismal product from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Production Company (AKA Rob Schneider’s meal ticket).
 
Directed by Frank Coraci, who delivered one of Sandler’s best movies with “The Wedding Singer,” “Zookeeper” takes a page from another James flick, 2005’s “Hitch.” Instead of taking dating advice from Will Smith, however, James, who plays insecure lead zookeeper Griffin Keyes, is schooled in the subject of love by a zoo-full of chatty wildlife. Voice work includes Sylvester Stallone as a discerning lion, Nick Nolte as a depressed gorilla, and what sounds like a constipated Sandler as a capuchin monkey.
 
Although it might sound like another wannabe “Charlotte’s Web,” the talking animals don’t make up much of the story, which centers on Griffin trying to win his materialistic ex-girlfriend back. In one unfunny scene, a wolf explains that a male mammal must mark his territory to get the female species’ attention. Acting like even more of a numskull and for no particular reason, Griffin relieves himself in a potted plant at a dinner reception as if the advice was actually useful.
 
Let’s just hope James stops pissing on things long enough to realize his film career is already sufficiently soaked.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

January 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Kevin James, Keir O’Donnell, Jayma Mays
Directed by: Steve Carr (“Are We Done Yet?”)
Written by: Kevin James (debut) and Nick Bakay (TV’s “In Living Color”)

As a physical comedian, Kevin James will never reach the level of someone like the late Chris Farley or Jerry Lewis, but if you’ve seen his TV show “The King of Queens,” there are some instances when James can toss himself around with the best of them.

But in his new film “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” the teddy-bear-of-an-actor can’t carry an entire production even on his broad shoulders. Plus, smashing his face into as many things as humanly possible doesn’t really constitute as entertainment unless you’re searching the phrase “epic fail” on YouTube or watching a “Three Stooges” marathon. (Farrelly Brothers, take note. Could James be your Curly?)

In “Mall Cop,” James plays title character Paul Blart (yes, it rhymes with fart, how amusing), a New Jersey security officer who settles for protecting the local mall after he fails to pass physical training to become a state trooper. It’s not that Blart is incapable of getting past the tires and ropes of the obstacle course (he’s fairly limber for a man of his girth), but his hypoglycemia makes him pass out if he’s not gnawing on a Snickers bar every 15 minutes.

Blart’s ability as a security guard is tested when a gang of ninja-like X-gamer thieves infiltrate the mall on Black Friday and take a small group hostage inside the mall’s bank. The hostages include Amy (Jayma Mays), a cute kiosk girl Blart is crushing on, and Blart’s biracial daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez), whose mother abandoned her after she used Paul to get a green card.

With only his Segway and his intuition to guide him (“The mind is the only weapon that doesn’t need a holster,” he says), Blart is the lone, er, law enforcement with eyes on the inside that can stop the criminals from getting away with their tactless plan.

Directed by Steve Carr (“Are We Done Yet?,” “Daddy Day Care”), “Blart” begins and ends with a foolish script penned by James and TV writer Nick Bakay. Most of the jokes run longer than they should while others fall flat on delivery. We get that Blart is supposed to be this lovable moron who can’t get a break in life, but he comes off as more annoying and pitiful than he should.

Sure, fat can be funny if the story falls into place, but with “Mall Cop” scenarios and storylines get way too ridiculous and James as a bumbling chubster plays out juvenile at best.