Story

Zookeeper Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) is humiliated when Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) rejects his proposal of marriage. So Griffin decides to dedicate himself to bringing happiness to the lives of the animals in his charge. Years later, he unexpectedly meets up with Stephanie again and realises he still has feelings for her.

Griffin decides that the only way to win Stephanie’s love is to change into the kind of man she wants. So he thinks about leaving the zoo to take up a higher paid, more prestigious job in the car dealership owned by his brother Dave. The zoo animals don’t want him to go, though, so they work together to help him win Stephanie back. The animals involved in this plot include Joe the lion (voice of Sylvester Stallone) and his partner Janet (voice of Cher), Jerome the bear (voice of Jon Favreau) and his friend Bruce the bear (voice of Faizon Love), Bernie the gorilla (voice of Nick Nolte), Donald the monkey (voice of Adam Sandler) and Sebastian the wolf (voice of Bas Rutten).

Themes

Separation from loved ones; betrayal; adult relationships

Violence

This movie has a lot of cartoon-style violence that doesn’t show realistic consequences. For example:

  • Bruce and Jerome the bears yell at each other and then begin slapping and wrestling.
  • Griffin kicks Gale and tries to force him off the road while they’re cycling.
  • Gale repeatedly hits Griffin over the head and shoulders with a flexible plastic bicycle flag post.

There are also some examples of more realistic verbal, physical and emotional violence:

  • Stephanie screams at Griffin.
  • A boy teases Jerome and Bruce and throws things at them.
  • Griffin kicks zoo worker Shane hard in the groin, leaving him bent over and screaming.
  • Shane teases Bernie the gorilla, and then throws an apple so that it hits a wall and shatters into pieces all over Bernie. Shane is obviously trying to bully and humiliate Bernie.
  • Bernie describes Shane’s physically and emotionally abusive actions.
  • Griffin threatens to beat up Shane in front of his mother.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:

  • There are close-up shots of wild animals being aggressive. These include Joe the lion roaring, Sebastian the wolf growling and baring his sharp teeth, and Bernie the gorilla screaming and thumping his chest.
  • Several scenes show zoo animals escaping their cages and running loose around adults and children.
  • A boy falls into the bear enclosure. It looks like the bears are going to attack him.
  • The animals hurt Griffin. He also falls over, falls from heights and hits his head.
  • Griffin clings to Bernie the gorilla’s back while Bernie climbs a very tall bridge. It looks like one or both of them will fall to their deaths.
  • Janet the lion is rushed to the zoo’s medical centre. She doesn’t seem to be breathing, and it looks like she might die.

From 8-13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

This movie has quite a lot of sexual references. For example:

  • Zoo worker Venom (Ken Jeong) greets Dave’s fiancée with a long hug. Then he says, ‘You’re not married yet, right …’.
  • Jerome the bear is advising Griffin. Jerome says, ‘When I take down a female…’.  He follows this up by talking about a female bear he once knew, who was ‘born with an extra claw, and let me tell you, she knows how to use it … Canadian bears are wild!’
  • Sebastian the wolf talks about the behaviour he thinks ‘attracts the ladies’.
  • Gale and Stephanie do a sexy dance together. Griffin and Kate also do a sexy dance together.
  • Griffin is forced to reach into Venom’s front trouser pockets to find a car key. It seems that Venom has set up this situation for his own pleasure.
  • Gale says that he and Stephanie ‘make out hard’.
  • Griffin raises his eyebrows and says, ‘Robin is bendy’. Dave replies, ‘Yeah, agile,’ while making a suggestive facial expression.

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

This movie shows characters drinking alcohol in social situations.

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie includes some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • One scene shows Griffin having a bath. We can see only his top half.
  • Griffin wees against a tree in the zoo, and then again inside a restaurant. We can’t see anything, but it looks like other characters see Griffin’s penis. Characters talk about the sexual attractiveness of weeing in public.
  • Kate and Griffin kiss passionately.

Product placement

There is some product placement in this movie. For example, it shows various car brands and Red Bull soft drink.

Coarse language

This movie has some coarse language, put-downs and toilet humour.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Zookeeper is a fairly entertaining comedy, which might appeal to a cross-section of age groups. It’s not recommended for children under eight, however. Much of the humour comes from either sexual references or accidents that show physical discomfort or injury to the main character.

The movie’s main message is that people can’t be happy or satisfied until they can be true to themselves. Unfortunately, this movie also seems to suggest that violence is an OK way to sort out conflict and that people with the most power are likely to come out on top. Divorced or separated parents might be concerned about the movie’s idealised picture of ‘true’ love as a lifelong and one-off experience. In addition, characters in the movie often talk about the best ways to ‘get’ a girl, which some people might feel promotes a view of women as objects or possessions.

Values in this movie that you might want to reinforce with your children include loyalty, honesty, integrity and teamwork.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as the:

  • negative outcomes of violence and better ways of sorting out conflict
  • complexity of human relationships
  • problems that might come with being selfish and materialistic
  • consequences of trying to manipulate other people, rather than letting them be true to themselves.