DVD Release Date: October 11, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: July 8, 2011
Rating: PG (for some rude and suggestive humor, and language)
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 104 min.
Director: Frank Coraci
Cast:  Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb. Voices of: Adam Sandler, Cher, Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte

It doesn’t get any more simplistic than the “Fat Man Fall Down” brand of comedy, but when it’s done with a good-natured spirit rather than mockery it may be the most reliable laugh in the history of the human race. And since Chris Farley, no one’s done it better than Kevin James.

After a successful run on TV with The King Of Queens, James has steadily built a film career with a mix of leading and supporting/ensemble roles, all playing variations on his loveable big guy persona. Zookeeper, his latest starring vehicle, follows Paul Blart: Mall Cop as another amusing (if not new) turn by James and produced by his good friend Adam Sandler. They share a similar approach—broad laughs with a big heart—aimed at two different audiences. While Sandler makes crude comedies for Gen-Xers, James makes cute ones for their families.

In a Dr. Doolittle meets Night at the Museum mash-up concept, James plays Griffin Keyes, the titular keeper of a big city zoo. Inexplicably dating a gorgeous blonde from the world of fashion, she rejects his elaborate marriage proposal while belittling his profession. Years later, she re-enters his life for a possible second chance, but Griffin will have to compete with another one of her exes to win her over.

Naturally, that’s where the talking animals come in.

Griffin is the most beloved staff member by said animals, but with the pressure from his ex to find a better, more high-profile career, Griffin feels that his only option is to move on. The zoo’s residents band together and agree to help Griffin increase his animal magnetism. If they’re successful, they reason, he can win back the ex without having to leave.

To do so, the animals have to break “The Code”, i.e. the agreement between all living creatures to not speak human language around other humans, despite their ability to do so. Who knew? Before you know it the entire zoo is giving Griffin pointers on how to be an Alpha Male.

Therein lies the basic structure for both the plot and the comedy, and it’s a mixed bag at best. In short, animals acting like humans isn’t all that funny, but Kevin James acting like animals is—especially when attempts end in some form of pratfall.

The manic strain to breathe life into the conventional “Animals Talking” trick is palpable, but it’s basically the same shtick. Give them zany voices, each performed by former stars (Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Nick Nolte) or reliable comics (Adam Sandler, Maya Rudolph, Judd Apatow, and others), and have them say and do very silly things. Kids will love it even as parents grow tired.