Zookeeper (2011)

You Wanna Talk? Let’s Talk!

I desperately wanted to rent today’s movie, mainly out of my self-loathing. We’ve all heard of this movie and decided not to see it, but you’re not all like me. You avoid things that may cause you pain because you’re weak. MAN UP TIME!! None of you will probably see this movie, but it won’t matter because I’m going to spoil it. Read on if you want to hear my thoughts on the movie. This movie is Zookeeper, written by Jay Scherick and David Ronn, directed Frank Coraci, and starring Kevin James, Leslie Bibb, Rosario Dawson, Nat Faxon, Joe Rogan, Ken Jeong, and Donnie Wahlberg, and starring the voices of Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Maya Rudolph, Jim Breuer, and Don Rickles.

Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) proposes to his girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), but she turns him down and dumps him. She says it’s because he’s a zookeeper, I says it’s because there is no way a girl that looks like her would marry a guy that looks like him. Just sayin’. 5 years later, Griffin is the lead zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo, having gotten promoted because of how much, and how well, he cares for the animals. Working with him is the zoo veterinarian, Kate (Rosario Dawson), the reptile house zookeeper Venom (Ken Jeong), and another zookeeper Shane (Donnie Wahlberg). At a party in celebration of his brother, Dave (Nat Faxon)’s wedding, Stephanie starts to regret breaking up with Griffin and starts trying to get back into his life. This is when the animals get involved. Apparently, they can all talk. The main animals are Joe the Lion (Sylvester Stallone), his Lioness Janet (Cher), Donald the Monkey (Adam Sandler), Barry the Elephant (Judd Apatow), Jerome and Bruce the Grizzly Bears (Jon Favreau and Faizon Love), Mollie the really annoying Giraffe (Maya Rudolph), and Bernie the Gorilla (Nick Nolte), although Bernie is depressed and doesn’t join the group when they meet to discuss Griffin. They start giving him shitty advice on how to land Stephanie again. Later, Stephanie’s ex, Gale (Joe Rogan), comes back into the picture and starts a conflict with Griffin over Stephanie. Griffin also uses Kate to make Stephanie jealous. Eventually, Griffin does get back together with Stephanie, and she convinces him to leave the zoo to work with his brother at the car dealership. This makes Kate accept a job in Africa. Griffin realizes that he’s not being the man he wants to be and goes back to the zoo, but then has to chase down Kate on her way to the airport. Happily ever after. … I mean the movie ended. That was my happily ever after.

This movie sucked. That’s not a surprise, right? What IS a surprise is why does a movie suck when so many people I would consider talented are involved? I’ve seen movies (okay, A movie) with Kevin James in it that I liked, but I heard good things about that TV show he was on. I’ve seen a couple Sandler movies that were funny. Ken Jeong is funny, Joe Rogan is funny, Rosario Dawson can be funny AND is a very talented actress. But what is the deal with James and Sandler? Together they have been making movies recently that are so bad that the only thing funny about them is the jokes made ABOUT the movie. This movie, as expected, was not funny. Zero percent laughs. The story? Not very good either. It is just a step up from other kids movies that seemed to have caught on to the fact that they really don’t need to rely heavily on writing because children will think talking animals is enough reason to see a movie. I would like to say this to such movies: the fact that you CAN make an animal talk in a movie does not serve as a premise for a movie. I would say I could write a better script in my sleep, but when I woke up at the end of this movie, I had no such script. Either way, it’s bad. Most of the humor relies on gross humor (like flinging lion phlegm into Kevin James’ face) and slapstick humor (like Kevin James inexplicably flying around a wedding party on sheets hanging from the ceiling, knocking down the bride, and smashing into an ice sculpture). You generally find Kevin James likeable in his movies, regardless of quality, and he is here as well, but I didn’t like how stupid he was written. Who in their right mind would take most of this advice from animals? They don’t get mates the same way we do! Women won’t jump on board with a guy peeing into a plant in a restaurant. And if learning from animals wasn’t the premise of the movie, it’s the very played out “being in love with one girl and ignoring the girl of your dreams that you’ve had all along” crap. I know this kind of thing is fairly realistic, but why be so fascinated with the girl that broke your heart that you ignore Rosario Dawson? Leslie Bibb is fine, sure, but did I mention the other girl is ROSARIO DAWSON?! Fuck that shit. This movie would’ve been over in 20 minutes for me. Get dumped, animals can talk, “Oh wait, I work with Rosario Dawson”, THE END. And if I asked the animals for advice and they came back with “Pee in a plant”, I would then say “Oh yeah, you guys are stupid. That’s why you’re in cages as things for us to look at. I’ll figure this out. Go back to licking your crotches.” On a positive note, the mouth movements for the animals were pretty well executed.

The performances themselves are okay at best, but it’s really hard to notice that when the writing is so bad and they’re the ones delivering those written words to us. Kevin James is mostly mediocre throughout the entire movie and reduces his performance to just poor imitations of animals. He has only one part I thought was funny. That was when one of the animals told him to insult, and immediately compliment, Stephanie to get her interested. Though this shows a fairly low opinion for the intelligence of women, it was executed pretty funny by James. He tells her that he wants dessert and she asks him something and he says “God you’re beautiful … but you’re still here,” and she hops to it and gets him some dessert. Leslie Bibb is very attractive, but didn’t add much by way of performance. Rosario Dawson, on the other hand, actually gave a very real performance in the movie, reminiscent to me of her performance in Clerks 2. In both movies, she really makes you believe that she could go for a guy that looks like Dante or Griffin. The problem with her performance in this movie is that, when she was going head to head with Kevin James, the reality of her performance shined a spotlight on how hammed up his performance was. That’s upstaging, Rosie! Joe Rogan and Ken Jeong appear fairly briefly in the movie, but their parts are the parts in the movie that did the most to fight against this movie’s lack of funny, but there’s only so much they could do. The animals were all pretty consistently annoying. Nick Nolte sounded like Nick Nolte and has the ability to make your ears bleed with how gravely his voice is. And the ape was animatronic or a guy in a suit, and looked very bad. The one in Jackass 3D was more convincing. The rest of the animals were real or CG. Adam Sandler and Maya Rudolph chose very irritating voices and performances for their animals and I dreaded them speaking again. Sylvester Stallone played the lion as very disinterested in what was happening in the movie, but that’s probably just because Sly probably was disinterested. Cher, on the other hand, was good.

This movie wastes a pretty solid cast with a bad premise, poor story, and complete lack of funniness. There are some good performances, namely Joe Rogan and Ken Jeong for the comedy and Rosario Dawson for her realism, but none good enough to sit through the movie to see them. Kids may enjoy the movie, but there’s no reason to let those little shits control your lives. Zookeeper gets “Tragic misread of situation” out of “You don’t wanna know”.

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The Sixth Sense (1999)

Bruce Willis Was Dead the Whole Time!

I decided to end the October Horror-thon with my favorite scary movie, one that is apparently not a horror movie according to the websites I’ve checked.  But fuck ’em, there are dead people in this movie so I’m counting it.  This movie is The Sixth Sense, aka “The Best Movie M. Night Shyamalan Had in Him.”  This is the movie that did the special twist ending so well that he felt every movie he made had to have a much worse version of it.  Let’s find out how well The Sixth Sense holds up, written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg, and Mischa Barton.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is drunk and boring his wife, Anne (Olivia Williams) by incessantly bragging about receiving an award for being a really good child psychologist.  They go upstairs to get a little freaky naughty and find a window broken and a strange, mostly naked man in their bathroom.  Malcolm figures out that this guy is a former patient named Vincent Grey (Donnie Wahlberg).  Turns out Grey is not happy because Malcolm wasn’t able to help him with his problem 10 years earlier, so he shoots Malcolm in the stomach and blows his own brains out.  Cut to next autumn, where Crowe is creepily watching his next patient, Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment).  Malcolm has taken a particular interest in this young boy because of his tight, form-fitting jeans and his similarity to Grey.  “This time,” he resolves, “I WON’T get shot.”  It takes some time for Malcolm to gain the confidence of Cole, but when he does, Cole tells Malcolm his secret: Cole sees dead people.  Malcolm wants to give up on Cole, but he also doesn’t want to get shot in 10 years.  The movie continues on to it’s resolution of Cole’s problem, the classic Shyamalan twist, and the credits.

When this movie first came out, it was a phenomenon, and with good reason.  Not only was it a well-made movie and a well-written story, but the twist at the end was so epic and so well-hidden that it was a gigantic faux pas for someone to ruin it.  I hadn’t remembered it, but my roommate told me that he remembers ruining it for another one of our friends and that getting them really pissed off.  I, however, got to witness it without my douchebag roommate’s spoilers and so I enjoyed the movie immensely.  The story is a fairly classic one that happens in a lot of ghost movies when someone is the sole person that can see them.  The twist is what separates this movie from the others.  The atmosphere is also one to be appreciated.  It’s quiet and slow as it builds the tension and, though I grant that it does go for a lot of startling, the mood it creates elevates those scares when they happen.  Things like the cabinets opening when the mom leaves the room, the lady in the kitchen with cuts on her wrists, and the boy with the head wound all get a nice jump out of the audience.  But someone needs to talk to these ghosts about first impressions.  When Osment decides to try to help the ghosts, the first one pops up out of nowhere and vomits at him.  Why don’t you throw up BEFORE you go talk to him, and maybe wave him over from across the room.  And was it necessary to grab his leg out of nowhere when he was in your room to help you?  Not cool, Mischa Barton!  The use of color was also very nice as the objects that are red are usually things that you should pay attention to because they have significance later on or indicate a heightened emotional state.  The ones I can remember are the red doorknob and the wife, Olivia Williams.  After the events of the first part of the movie, she’s usually seen wearing red and, at the end of the movie, you figure out what the heightened emotional state she’d be in would be.

The only negative I’d say about this movie is that, once you’ve already seen it, the movie isn’t nearly as special.  Even though it’s over 10 years old, and I would assume almost everybody has seen it by now, I refuse to put the spoiler ending in this review.  I think it’s a huge douchey move to ruin it for someone too.  Eventually, there will be people who haven’t seen this movie because they’re only just coming to the age where they can watch it and I don’t want to be responsible for ruining it.  This is a fine movie with some good chills and creepiness that is a perfectly good movie to watch, but watching it for the first time when you don’t know what’s going to happen is sublime.  The first watch of this movie made it my favorite “horror” movie, but subsequent watches leaves it as only enjoyable and not nearly as epic.

The performances in this movie are also top notch.  Bruce Willis puts on by far his greatest performances to date.  He has to be serious, charming, and devastated at different times in the movie and I’ve still never seen him put on such a show before.  He’s great in action movies and all, but it doesn’t require nearly as much range from him so I would have suspected he wouldn’t be capable of it.  This movie also made Haley Joel Osment a household name for a good long time.  He was the pinnacle of the child actor until he pretty much fell off the face of the Earth and was replaced by dual Fannings.  He was absolutely fantastic in this movie.  He seemed constantly depressed and on edge, and his character would have good reason to be.  It’s a shame that he seemingly made such poor movie choices after this movie, and that his body grew up and his face didn’t, which makes him strange to look at today.  But he was an adorable kid that first showed up in the awesome movie Forrest Gump.  But besides Forrest Gump, The Sixth Sense, and A.I. Artificial Intelligence (though I’ve never seen that), he’s never been in a movie rated higher than 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, and seemingly stopped working about 4 years ago.  I’m sure he’s plenty rich though, so I’m sure he’ll be fine.  He was nominated for an Academy Award, though, along with the person playing his mother, Toni Collette.  And with good reason there as well, because she was also fantastic as the working mom just trying to make it work with her outcast child.  But it may not have been that realistic of a performance because, if I had a kid that could talk to ghosts and I was dirt poor, my first thoughts would be “I’m gonna exploit the crap out of you, boy!”  Olivia Williams had a small part to the movie, but she did great at it.  On first viewing, I would’ve said she was a bitch to Bruce, but once the twist is revealed, you get to see the nuance to her performance and appreciate it much more.  Donnie Wahlberg deserves an honorable mention for his commitment to the part as well.  He lost all kinds of weight for the role; so much so that I didn’t even recognize him when I saw it.  He was very good also.

So there it is.  The end of the October Horror-thon with my favorite horror movie, The Sixth Sense.  The mixture of is fantastic story, epic twist, outstanding performances, and terrific cinematography will probably keep it my favorite horror movie of all time, regardless of the questionable nature of it’s “horror” title that I’ve bestowed on it.  The only problem I can think of to this movie is that it isn’t nearly as epic when you already know the ending.  So don’t be a dick and ruin this for someone if they haven’t seen it.  Look, I just did a review of over 1000 words and didn’t spoil it, so you can too.  And after that, just hope that Shyamalan can pull off another good movie before his career is over with all them Airbenders and Water Lady’s.  I give The Sixth Sense a “It’s getting cold” out of “Some magic’s real.”

Hey, peeps.  Why not rate and comment on this as a favor to good ole Robert, eh?  And tell your friends!  Let’s make me famous!