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Entertainment

When animals talk about love

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - In Columbia Pictures’ wild comedy Zookeeper, the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo love their kindhearted caretaker, Griffin Keyes (Kevin James). Finding himself more comfortable with a lion than a lady, Griffin decides the only way to get a girl in his life is to leave the zoo and find a more glamorous job. The animals, in a panic, decide to break their time-honored code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: They can talk! To keep Griffin from leaving, they decide to teach him the rules of courtship — animal style.

“I have two kids and we go to the zoo all the time — their expectation is they’re going to be able to communicate with the animals,” says producer Todd Garner, explaining the project’s genesis. “So the idea was to make a movie about animals teaching a zookeeper how to find love. Our goal was to create an idea where all the fantasies of the children in all of us could come true.”

Kevin James, who co-wrote, produced, and stars in the film, plays a zookeeper at a crossroads in his life. “Griffin takes a lot of pride in his job, but after flaming out in his latest relationship, he thinks he’s got to make a clean break and move on. But the animals think he’s the best zookeeper they’ve ever had — they can’t risk losing him. So that’s when they reveal they can talk — it’s risky for them, because things tend not to go well for them when people know they can talk, but they’re in dire straits. They have no other choice.”

Once the script was written, the filmmakers were able to attract a truly all-star cast of comedy voices to play the animals. “We were incredibly fortunate to get the voice cast that we have. Adam Sandler got on board first to play the monkey — and now, I can’t imagine anybody else playing that part,” says director Frank Coraci.

“Adam is so talented, he could have voiced any animal in this movie, but I can’t think of a better match than the monkey,” says co-screenwriter Nick Bakay. “The monkey is one of our best animal actors — it did incredible faces and exhibits tons of personality, just like Adam.”

Cher joins the film as the zoo’s lovely and loving lioness, with Sylvester Stallone as the king of the jungle himself. Nick Nolte plays Bernie, the gruff gorilla, who becomes an unlikely friend to Griffin. The voice cast also includes Judd Apatow as Barry the elephant; Jim Breuer as a neighborhood crow; Jon Favreau and Faizon Love as Jerome and Bruce, a pair of quarreling grizzly bears; Richie Minervini as an ostrich; Maya Rudolph as a Mollie the giraffe; and UFC fighter Bas Rutten as Sebastian the wolf.

On camera, the filmmakers have also assembled a cast of equally strong actors. Rosario Dawson plays a veterinarian and eagle expert, the object of Griffin’s affections. Leslie Bibb plays Griffin’s ex-girlfriend, the one who broke his heart and sets in motion his plan to leave the zoo. Ken Jeong delivers another memorable performance as Venom, the reptile expert.

Zookeeper, distributed by Columbia Pictures, is now showing in theaters.

ADAM SANDLER

BAS RUTTEN

COLUMBIA PICTURES

FRANK CORACI

FRANKLIN PARK ZOO

GRIFFIN

GRIFFIN KEYES

IN COLUMBIA PICTURES

JEROME AND BRUCE

KEVIN JAMES

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