Zookeeper (film)

Zookeeper is a 2011 American comedy film directed by Frank Coraci, starring Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Joe Rogan and featuring the voices of Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Don Rickles, Judd Apatow, Cher, Jon Favreau, and Faizon Love. It is about an unlucky zookeeper who turns to the animals at his zoo to help him find love. It was the first MGM film to be co-produced with Happy Madison, yet distributed by Columbia Pictures.[4] The film was released on July 8, 2011.[5]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Coraci
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Nick Bakay
  • Rock Reuben
  • Kevin James
  • Jay Scherick
  • David Ronn
Story by
  • Jay Scherick
  • David Ronn
Music byRupert Gregson-Williams
CinematographyMichael Barrett
Edited byScott Hill
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • July 8, 2011 (2011-07-08) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[2][3]
Box office$169.8 million[3]

Filming began in Boston on August 17, 2009. The film received negative reviews from critics and it earned $169.8 million on a $80 million budget.


A zookeeper named Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) sets up a plan to propose to the love of his life Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), but she rejects him and claims that his career as a zookeeper is what is keeping her away, therefore breaking Griffin's heart.

Five years later, Griffin is shown to be the lead zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo who cares deeply for the zoo animals. That night, Griffin holds a party at the zoo for his brother Dave (Nat Faxon) who is getting married, but freaks out when he discovers that Stephanie was invited. Dave offers Griffin to come and work with him at a car dealership, explaining that it is the best way to get Stephanie back. Griffin contemplates quitting his job at the zoo and joining his brother at the dealership.

Later, the animals hold a meeting saying that they think Griffin is the best zookeeper at the zoo and don't want him to leave, so they decide to find some way to help him win Stephanie's heart. Jerome the Bear (Jon Favreau) suggests that they teach Griffin their animal mating techniques, but Joe the Lion (Sylvester Stallone) protests, reminding them that it's against the animal code to talk to humans. Donald the Monkey (Adam Sandler) says that Stephanie will be at the zoo tomorrow, and all the animals have to do is make Griffin look like a hero in front of her.

The next day, Donald unlocks the door to the lion enclosure and lets Joe out, who confronts Stephanie and Dave's fiancée Robin (Steffiana de la Cruz). Kate (Rosario Dawson), the zoo's vet, manages to get them away from Joe, but Griffin fails to jump into the lion enclosure, ruining the animals' plan. When he climbs out of the enclosure, Joe yells at Griffin, causing Griffin to believe he has gone mad. The next night, all the animals break their code of silence and tell Griffin that they will teach him what to do to win Stephanie. Griffin learns their different mating rituals, but ends up humiliating himself in front of the other zookeepers and the guests.

Griffin then has a talk with Bernie (Nick Nolte), a forlorn gorilla who was moved into a deep enclosure after allegedly attacking a zookeeper named Shane (Donnie Wahlberg). Bernie explains to Griffin that Shane abuses the animals and he fell when he was abusing Bernie. He lied and said that Bernie attacked him, causing Bernie to lose his trust in humans.

Griffin discovers that Stephanie is dating her other ex-boyfriend, a bully named Gale (Joe Rogan). Joe's mate Janet (Cher) tells Griffin that the best way to attract a female is to be seen with another female, so Griffin asks Kate to go with him to Dave and Robin's wedding. Griffin then disguises Bernie with an Izod T-shirt and takes him out to T.G.I. Friday's; they bond, with Bernie telling Griffin that he's his best friend.

Griffin and Kate go to the wedding and seem to have fun together. Griffin becomes brave enough to stand up to Gale and this grabs Stephanie's attention. After Kate tells Griffin she had a great time with him, Stephanie asks Griffin out to dinner. Griffin accepts and they go to dinner and then go to a fashion show. Stephanie tells Griffin that his job at the zoo is holding him back, so Griffin decides to quit his job and accepts Dave's offer, which upsets Kate. Bernie also becomes upset and tells Griffin that he thought he could trust someone again, but was proved wrong when Griffin quit his job. As a parting gesture, Griffin threatens to beat up Shane if he hurts Bernie. Kate decides to leave the zoo and accepts a job in Nairobi.

Griffin becomes the best employee at the car dealership, but misses working at the zoo. Stephanie proposes to Griffin, but Griffin refuses and dumps her after coming to the realization that if Stephanie did love him she would accept him for who he was and not what he was. He then goes back to the zoo and apologizes to Bernie, who accepts Griffin's friendship, but shows signs of being beat by Shane. The animals then tell Griffin that Kate is heading to the airport. Griffin heads out to stop her, though he does make a stop first at Shane's house to make good on his threat. Then, with Bernie's help, Griffin manages to catch up with Kate on the bridge and confesses his love for her. Six months later, Griffin and Kate get married and are back working at the zoo and Bernie is now living in a new enclosure where he gets a great view of the city. When Bernie asks what a "Benihana" is, Griffin asks Bernie if he still has his Izod.


  • Kevin James as Griffin Constantine Keyes, the lead zookeeper.
  • Rosario Dawson as Kate, Griffin's friend, later wife, and the zoo's veterinarian.
  • Leslie Bibb as Stephanie, Griffin's antagonistic love interest who turns down his marriage proposal because of the job he has.
  • Joe Rogan as Gale, Stephanie's alpha-male ex-boyfriend.
  • Nat Faxon as Dave Keyes, Griffin's brother who convinces Griffin to work at his car dealership.
  • Ken Jeong as Venom, Griffin's friend and the worker at the reptile house.
  • Steffiana de la Cruz as Robin Keyes, Dave's fiancé later turned wife. De La Cruz is the real life wife of Kevin James.
  • Thomas Gottschalk as Jürgen Mavroc
  • Donnie Wahlberg as Shane, an abusive zookeeper
  • Brandon Keener as Nimer





Filming began in Boston on August 17, 2009, aiming for a release in October 2010, which was then released on July 8, 2011. Filming ended on October 30, 2009.[6]

Tweet, the giraffe who rose to fame as a star in the classic Toys "R" Us commercials (by being cast as Geoffrey, the company's official mascot) and who appeared alongside Jim Carrey in the film Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, died after filming Zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo.[7] The 18-year-old giraffe collapsed during feeding and in the care of his trainer.[8]

Tai the elephant was featured in a video, reportedly filmed in 2005 and released in 2011 by Animal Defenders International (ADI), which showed him being abused by its trainers. A campaign to boycott the movie was formed since the outbreak of the news.[9] ADI has also contacted the American Humane Association, urging them to re-evaluate how they assess the use of animals in films and the statements being made which effectively endorse the use of performing animals.[10] Animal rights advocates PETA also urged the public to boycott the film.[11]

Around 50 people came to the film's premiere at the Regency Village Theatre in Westwood, Los Angeles, California to protest against the filmmakers for their alleged animal abuse. Frank Coraci claimed that the animals were not harmed during production. In an interview, Coraci stated, "...We worked with people who love their animals and [the American] Humane Association was there to ensure that they were being treated correctly. We didn’t do anything that we shouldn’t do. We treated the animals with love and respect."[11]




Box office

Zookeeper made its debut in 3,482 theaters in the United States and Canada. It grossed $7.4 million on its opening day and $20.1 million on its opening weekend, ranking it #3 for the weekend behind holdover Transformers: Dark of the Moon and newcomer Horrible Bosses.[12] The film earned a worldwide total of $169,852,759.[3]

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 14% of 130 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 3.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Zookeeper smothers Kevin James's [sic] with a sodden script and a surfeit of jokes inappropriate for the young viewers who would be intrigued by its juvenile storyline."[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 30 out of 100 based on 29 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[14] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[15]

Mary Pols of Time named it one of the Top 10 Worst Movies of 2011.[16] British newspaper The Telegraph named Zookeeper one of the ten worst films of 2011, saying "Portly Kevin James is the hero of this "comedy", which boasts five screenwriters and not a single amusing moment."[17]

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who co-hosts the film review series Ebert Presents: At the Movies, said that "even though the movie looks hilarious from the trailer, it is only hilarious if you enjoy seeing Kevin James fall down a lot". He gave the film a "thumbs down," as did Christy Lemire, the other co-host of the series. In May 2011, RedLetterMedia (creators of the Mr. Plinkett reviews) did an episode of the show Half in the Bag reviewing the film's first trailer. The hosts sarcastically praised the trailer as if they thought it was a fake, well crafted parody of a tired subset of the comedy genre, at one point noting "All they were missing was a wise cracking sidekick for Kevin James, played by a rapper."[18] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times published a three-out-of-four star review, stating, "Look, a great movie this is not. A pleasant summer entertainment it is. I think it can play for all ages in a family audience... and besides, I'm getting a teensy bit exhausted by cute little animated animals. The creatures in this zoo all have the excellent taste to be in 2D."[19]

Home video

The film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 11, 2011.


Teen Choice Award[20] Choice Summer Movie Star – Female Rosario Dawson Nominated
Razzie Award Worst Supporting Actor Ken Jeong Nominated


  1. McCarthy, Todd (July 7, 2011). "Zookeeper: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  2. Kaufman, Amy (July 7, 2011). "Movie Projector: 'Transformers' expected to crush newcomers 'Zookeeper' and 'Horrible Bosses'". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  3. "Zookeeper". Box Office Mojo. IMDB. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  4. Fleming, Mike (April 4, 2010). "MGM Uncertainty Prompts Sony To Take Over 'Zookeeper' Domestic Distribution". Deadline. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  5. Sperling, Nicole (April 27, 2010). "Sony moves upcoming Kevin James comedy 'Zookeeper' into summer 2011". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  6. "Zookeeper Film Production Details". Variety. September 10, 2009. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  7. "Giraffe dies on Franklin Park Zoo film set – The Boston Globe". boston.com.
  8. Valencia, Milton J. (September 14, 2009). "Tweet the giraffe, star of ads and movies, dies at Franklin Park Zoo". The Boston Globe. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  9. "Group claims elephant abuse in film ", Stuff (New Zealand)/Reuters, May 11, 2011
  10. "Movie Star Electric Shocked". ADI. May 7, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  11. "PETA protests at 'Zookeeper' premiere. Director says animals were treated 'with love and respect'". Entertainment Weekly. July 7, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  12. "'Transformers' Stays on Top, 'Bosses' Fires 'Zookeeper'". July 10, 2011.
  13. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/zookeeper/
  14. "Zookeeper". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  15. "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  16. Pols, Mary (December 7, 2011). "The Top 10 Everything of 2011 – Zookeeper". Time. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  17. "Ten worst films of 2011". The Telegraph. London. December 15, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2011.
  18. "Red Letter Media Special Edition: The Zookeeper trailer  :". redlettermedia.com.
  19. "Zookeeper Movie Review & Film Summary (2011)". Chicago Sun-Times. July 6, 2011.
  20. Ng, Philiana (2011-07-19). "Teen Choice Awards 2011: 'Pretty Little Liars,' Rebecca Black Added to List of Nominees". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
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