Theatrical release poster
Directed byFrank Coraci
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Jay Scherick
  • David Ronn
Produced by
CinematographyMichael Barrett
Edited byScott Hill
Music byRupert Gregson-Williams
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • July 8, 2011 (2011-07-08) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$80 million[2][3]
Box office$169.8 million[3]

Zookeeper is a 2011 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Coraci, starring Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, and Leslie Bibb, and featuring the voices of Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Adam Sandler, Don Rickles (in the final film he finished before his death on April 6, 2017), Judd Apatow, Cher, Jon Favreau, and Faizon Love. It is about an unlucky zookeeper who turns to the talking animals at his zoo to help him find love. It was the first MGM film to be co-produced with Happy Madison (as well as their first production to be released after the company had filed for bankruptcy the year prior), though the film, like a majority of the Happy Madison output, was distributed by Columbia Pictures.[4] The film was released on July 8, 2011.[5]

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


In 2005, zookeeper Griffin Keyes proposes to his girlfriend Stephanie, but is turned down, citing his career as a zookeeper as the reason, breaking his heart.

Five years later in 2010, Griffin is now head zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo, caring deeply for the animals. That night, Griffin holds an engagement party there for his brother Dave, but freaks out when he discovers that Stephanie was invited. Dave suggests Griffin come work with him at his car dealership to get Stephanie back, so Griffin considers doing it.

The animals hold a meeting that evening as they feel Griffin is the best zookeeper, so they decide to find some way to help him win back Stephanie. Jerome the brown bear suggests they teach Griffin their mating techniques, but Joe the lion protests, reminding them that it's against the animal code to talk to humans. Donald the monkey suggests that they make Griffin look like a hero when Stephanie is at the zoo tomorrow.

The next day, Donald lets Joe out, who confronts Stephanie and Dave's fiancée Robin. Griffin ruins the animals' plan by failing to jump into the lion enclosure, and instead the vet Kate, captures Joe. When he climbs out of the enclosure, Joe accidentally yells at Griffin in frustration, causing Griffin to believe he has gone mad. That night, all the animals break the code of silence and tell Griffin they will teach him to win back Stephanie. He learns their different mating rituals, ending up humiliating himself at a party in front of the other zookeepers and the guests.

Griffin then has a talk with Bernie, a forlorn Western lowland gorilla who has spent years in a deep enclosure after allegedly attacking a zookeeper named Shane. Bernie tells Griffin that Shane fell when he was abusing him, but lied, saying that Bernie attacked him. This caused Bernie to mistrust humans.

Griffin discovers that Stephanie is dating another ex-boyfriend, a bully named Gale. Joe's mate Janet 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.

In 2012, Griffin successfully grabs Stephanie's attention by first showing off with Kate, then standing up to Gale. Stephanie asks him out to dinner and after they go to a fashion show. Stephanie convinces Griffin to quit his job and he accepts Dave's job offer. This upsets Kate, and also Bernie, who tells him that Griffin quitting proves that he can't trust humans. As he leaves, Griffin warns Shane not to hurt Bernie. Kate decides to leave the zoo and accepts a job in Nairobi.

Griffin becomes a star employee at the car dealership, but finds he misses working at the zoo. When Stephanie proposes to him in the midst of his success, he refuses without hesitation, dumping her as he realizes that she doesn't truly love or accept him as an individual and that their relationship was all conditional to her. He then goes to the zoo, apologizing to Bernie who he sees has been beaten by Shane. The animals tell him that Kate is heading to the airport, so Griffin heads out to stop her; stopping at Shane's house first to attack him for hurting Bernie. Then, with Bernie's help, Griffin manages to catch Kate on the bridge and confess his love for her. The two kiss.

Six months later, Griffin and Kate get married and are back at the zoo and Bernie is now living in a new enclosure where he gets a great view of the city.



Animal voices



On April 22, 2008, it was announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had purchased the script of the film, by $2 million, against DreamWorks Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures, and with Walt Becker attached to direct and produce.[6]


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.[7]

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.[8] The 18-year-old giraffe collapsed during feeding and in the care of his trainer.[9]

The two bears in this live action film were performed by Heber City, Utah's Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife veteran Grizzly actors Bart the Bear 2 and Honey Bump.[10][11]

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.[12] 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.[13] Animal rights advocates PETA also urged the public to boycott the film.[14]





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."[14]

Home media

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


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.[15] The film earned a worldwide total of $169,852,759.[3]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 14% based on reviews from 133 critics and an average rating of 3.60/10. 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."[16] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 30 out of 100 based on 29 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[17] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Brian Lowry of Variety called it "a marketing pitch in search of a movie" and a "punishingly flat effort that offers barely enough comedy to populate a three-minute trailer."[19] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said "it's dreadful in every respect" and called it an "archly mirthless comedy". Despite his criticism he offers some small praise: "Although one would never have expected to find her in a film like this, Dawson, by dint of enthusiasm, is the only actor who rises above the material with her dignity intact."[20] 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.[citation needed] 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."[21]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four, "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."[22] Sean O'Connell of the Washington Post wrote: "Pratfalls and agonizing tumbles appear to be James's business, and man, business is booming."[23]


Mary Pols of Time named it one of the Top 10 Worst Movies of 2011.[24] 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."[25]

Award Category Recipients Result
Teen Choice Award[26] Choice Summer Movie Star – Female Rosario Dawson Nominated
Razzie Award Worst Supporting Actor Ken Jeong Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d e f 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. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "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. ^ "MGM gets 'Zookeeper' | Hollywood Reporter". www.hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  7. ^ "Zookeeper Film Production Details". Variety. September 10, 2009. Archived from the original on September 19, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  8. ^ Valencia, Milton J. (15 September 2009). "Giraffe dies on Franklin Park Zoo film set – The Boston Globe". boston.com.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Bart the Bear 2".
  11. ^ "Honey Bump".
  12. ^ "Group claims elephant abuse in film ", Stuff (New Zealand)/Reuters, May 11, 2011
  13. ^ "Movie Star Electric Shocked". ADI. May 7, 2011. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
  14. ^ a b "PETA protests at 'Zookeeper' premiere. Director says animals were treated 'with love and respect'". Entertainment Weekly. July 7, 2011. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
  15. ^ "'Transformers' Stays on Top, 'Bosses' Fires 'Zookeeper'". July 10, 2011.
  16. ^ "Zookeeper (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 24, 2021.
  17. ^ "Zookeeper". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
  18. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  19. ^ Lowry, Brian (7 July 2011). "Zookeeper". Variety.
  20. ^ Todd McCarthy (7 July 2011). "Zookeeper: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  21. ^ "Red Letter Media Special Edition: The Zookeeper trailer". redlettermedia.com.
  22. ^ Roger Ebert (July 6, 2011). "Zookeeper Movie Review & Film Summary (2011)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  23. ^ Sean O'Connell (8 November 2013). "The Zookeeper Review and Showtimes, Kevin James in The Zookeeper". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2013-11-08.
  24. ^ Pols, Mary (December 7, 2011). "The Top 10 Everything of 2011 – Zookeeper". Time. Archived from the original on January 7, 2012. Retrieved December 13, 2011.
  25. ^ "Ten worst films of 2011". The Telegraph. London. December 15, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2011.
  26. ^ 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.