Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Zookeeper Movie Poster Image
Pointless comedy is a waste of a talented comedic cast.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 38 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 70 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even though the movie's overarching message is positive -- that someone should love you for who you are, not who you might become if you nag them enough -- there are many mixed signals about what constitutes someone's worthiness as a mate until the very end. Stephanie is portrayed as beautiful but mean and shallow, yet she's the one that Griffin is interested in for the majority of the film. Meanwhile, he acts surprised that Karen, a colleague, is actually attractive and treats her quite poorly until the end. So is the lesson that men are clueless and until they have an epiphany will reject a beautiful, intelligent woman if someone else is even more beautiful but mean?

Positive Role Models & Representations

As a zookeeper, Griffin is a good role model, because he's kind to the zoo animals and has a real passion for his work. But as a man, he makes mind-boggling choices. Anyone can see what an awful person Stephanie is, but Griffin uses his good friend, the equally as beautiful and intelligent Karen, to make his ex jealous and win her back into his life. He makes other questionable decisions while trying to woo Stephanie, including using a method of "tearing her down" (with insults) one moment and "bringing her up" (with compliments) the next. Karen, on the other hand, is consistently smart and generous.


For most of the movie, the only violence is Griffin's nearly incessant pratfalls (as well as gags in which others also humorously fall). He gets poked twice by a porcupine quill and falls into a pit between two animal enclosures. There's a bicycle race between him and his antagonist (they both get hurt, but it's more comic than violent). The gorilla, Bernie, tells James that another zookeeper was cruel to him. Griffin hits the other zookeeper so hard that he breaks the plaster in the wall.


The entire plot revolves around Griffin trying to win his ex's heart, and she's depicted as gorgeous, often wearing sexy dresses and outfits. Jokes are made about a bride's "flexibility," and a man boasts about how often he and his girlfriend "made out, hard." Some of the animals make double-meaning jokes about how to mate (show her the "goods," thrust out your loins, "take her down," "she had this extra claw and knew how to use it"). Griffin kisses two different women in the film. A Latin-style ballroom dance is rather spicy. 


Language includes "idiot," "hell," "shut up," "crap," "oh my God," and some insults hurled at a woman Griffin is trying to woo: "puppy breath," "hammer thumbs," "freckle chest," etc.


Griffin's brother owns an exotic car dealership that sells Ferrari, Mercedes, Ducati, and other luxury vehicle brands. Other product placements include Red Bull, TGI Friday's (which is the location of a key scene), and Benihana.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes are at wedding-related events -- engagement party, rehearsal dinner, and wedding reception -- where adults are shown drinking. There's also drinking at the TGI Friday's. Sabrina, The Teenage Witch is shown on TV (which isn't coincidental, since the movie was co-written by the actor who voiced Salem the talking cat).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this PG-rated Kevin James comedy deals with some grown-up issues about dating and mating that may not interest young kids. The humor, while featuring the predictable amount of animal "poop" and "pee" talk, is largely aimed at older audiences and includes some double entendres about sexual relationships -- marking territory, being forceful, highlighting your genitalia, and other jokes. Language includes words like "idiot," "crap," "shut up," and some scatological terms. Ultimately, the titular zookeeper learns a worthy lesson about just being himself, but by then kids will already have seen him act foolishly for an hour and a half.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6, 10, 16, and 16-year-old Written byBaseballmom1970 August 6, 2019


Great for the whole retirement home
Adult Written byJenkins2 July 2, 2019


This felt like they took a movie for adults and tried to turn it into a kids movie by making every aspect of the plot and dialogue as stupid as possible. Why... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 18, 2021

Really Good! :)

I thought it was gonna be boring...xD It's better then it looks.

It has Romance, and that is my favorite type of movie!

I recommend you see this movie!
Kid, 11 years old November 6, 2020

I dont get why people hate it.

I cant STAND other movies like this. But I love this movie, its not just how funny it is, its everything! The animals talk and are funny, its sad, happy and I l... Continue reading

What's the story?

Professionally, Griffin (Kevin James) is a successful lead zookeeper at a Boston-area zoo. But personally, he can't get over his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), who turned down his proposal five years ago. After he spots Stephanie at his brother's engagement party, Griffin vows to win back her affections, eventually using his sweet and attractive coworker, Karen (Rosario Dawson), to make Stephanie jealous. The zoo animals, who adore Griffin, decide to break their vow of silence and speak to him in order to help him with his dating issues. But Stephanie is only interested in Griffin if he agrees to leave his job and become the man she wants him to be -- rich, stylish, and materialistic.

Is it any good?

With so much comedic talent on board, it's really embarrassing that so few moments are laugh-worthy for adult audiences. Bernie the gorilla (Nick Nolte) driving a car straight into another car, Salem from Sabrina, The Teenage Witch popping up on TV just as Griffin has a meltdown about talking animals, and a couple of one-liners from the animals are about it. And that's being generous. This isn't so much a movie as a joke between James and his various comedian pals (Adam Sandler, Judd Apatow, Maya Rudolph, Faizon Love, and many more, who all voice animals).


Fans of Cher, who plays the zoo's lioness to Sylvester Stallone's lion, might want to stay for the credits to hear her (and the rest of the cast) sing Boston's classic-rock anthem More Than a Feeling. In fact, the soundtrack is hands-down the best part of the movie, with particularly memorable renditions of Flo Rida and T Pain's "Low," Barry White's "You're the First, the Last, My Everything," and Kansas' "Carry on My Wayward Son." Of course, the tunes alone aren't a reason to see yet another disappointing live-action talking-animal dud.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of animal-human comedies. Why are they so popular? What makes some succeed and others fail?

  • What does this movie say about romantic relationships? What dating advice works for Griffin, and what doesn't?

  • Who do you think this movie is intended to appeal to? How can you tell?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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