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Entries in Cher (2)

Friday
Jul082011

Zookeeper

I have to imagine Kevin James is a likable fellow. He strikes me as the type of person who, if approached on the street, wouldn’t mind chatting with fans, signing autographs and taking a few pictures. However, that affableness doesn’t make up for the fact that he’s made us sit through some of the trashiest, most foul, unwatchable pieces of garbage to come out in recent years. While he may be a nice guy in real life, he has never impressed in his films, which are almost always heavy-laden with physical comedy, an area where his abilities rest somewhere between slight and non-existent. He’s the type of comedian we’re supposed to laugh at simply because of his large visage, but laughing at someone’s weight is comedy of the shallowest order. James has starred in such abominations as Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Grown Ups and The Dilemma, but, if it can be believed, his newest film, Zookeeper, is his worst yet.

James plays Griffin, a zookeeper who is beloved by his animals. Five years prior, he popped the question to then-girlfriend, Stephanie, played by Leslie Bibb, but she shot him down because she was embarrassed by his occupation. Now, she has returned and Griffin once again finds himself falling for her. After overhearing a conversation one night, the animals learn that Griffin may be leaving the zoo. They’re none too happy with this news—besides, he’s the best zookeeper they’ve ever had—so they divulge their secret to him: they can talk. In an attempt to keep him around, they teach him mating techniques so he can snag the girl of his dreams without having to give up his job.

It would be easy to say that Zookeeper is absurd. Any movie with talking animals is, but as a colleague of mine pointed out, it’s weirder than usual and it gets weirder as it goes on. It’s strange enough watching James walk like a bear and learn to attract his mate with urine, but when the gorilla ends up at T.G.I. Friday’s, buys drinks for some cute ladies and ends up courting one of them, the film has clearly gone overboard. If anything can be said for it, Zookeeper doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is.

The problem is that what it is is a movie so desperate for laughs, it quickly resorts to tired slapstick and gross-out humor. In the first ten minutes alone, you’ll see Griffin fall over at least three times, break a tree limb that can’t carry his weight, get shot twice with porcupine quills and get splashed in the face with a lioness’s saliva. I suppose I should be grateful nobody gets covered in feces, especially given the nature of these types of films, but not throwing crap on someone comes off as faint praise for a movie with metaphorical smears all over it.

Zookeeper is juvenile, inane and utterly devoid of anything even remotely interesting, sure, but it’s surprisingly offensive as well, with traces of mild sexism and veiled homophobia throughout. While certainly minute in the big scheme of things, their diminutive nature makes them no less distasteful. For an entire scene, we watch as Griffin insults Stephanie and orders her to do things for him, playing up verbal abuse towards women as funny. Though not funny in any context, it’s especially shocking here given its PG rating and marketing towards children.

The only person treated with respect in the film is the zoo vet, played by Rosario Dawson, but even she is trapped in the archetypal “plain before pretty” role that has been outdated since Freddie Prinze Jr. fell for Rachael Leigh Cook in 1999’s She’s All That. It’s a shame because the filmmakers have gathered a great supporting voice cast that includes Nick Nolte, Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Judd Apatow, Jon Favreau, Maya Rudolph and Don Rickles, yet they are all squandered here, forced to recite insipid lines of dialogue about having thumbs and throwing poo. Frankly, it’s an embarrassing farce. Zookeeper is torturous, and that’s enough to make it one of the most unwatchable movies to be released this year.

Zookeeper receives 0.5/5

Wednesday
Nov242010

Burlesque

Musicals are wonderful. From George Stevens’ 1936 classic Swing Time to 2001’s Moulin Rouge, my love for musicals knows no bounds. As I sat down to watch the latest genre effort, Burlesque, I hoped for the best. Basically a mash up of Cabaret and Chicago, Burlesque is snappy, energetic and enthusiastic. It’s a phantasmagoric display of colors and costumes. And it’s also as boring as all get out.

Christina Aguilera plays Ali, an Iowa girl who moves out to Los Angeles with the hopes of hitting it big. On her job search, she comes across a Burlesque club and immediately falls in love with it, wishing for nothing more than to be up on that stage performing for the adoring crowd. However, the club’s owner, Tess, played by Cher, refuses to give her that chance. But when she learns she is about to lose her club to the bank unless able to raise a certain amount of money, she changes her mind and finds that Ali is a force to be reckoned with. She can sing, she can dance, she is beautiful and she becomes the talk of the town.

Burlesque’s plot resembles any other film where a newfound talent brings a business back from the brink of bankruptcy. It’s a story mechanic that has been done to death, but in the right hands it can still work. If it’s believable enough, I can look past it and enjoy the movie for what it is, but there’s nothing in Christina Aguilera that makes me believe she would garner this kind of attention. Aside from the fact that she isn’t a very good actress, which was to be expected, she isn’t particularly fun to watch as a singer either. She has a way of exaggerating her mannerisms to the point where you can’t tell whether she’s really into the song or having some sort of rhythmic seizure.

Still, the songs aren’t bad. It’s everything in between that stings the most. The dialogue, while sometimes humorously blunt, is usually just plain bad and it includes some of the most overly cloying exchanges since the last Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. Perhaps most egregious is its contrivances. As per usual with movies like this, a romance buds between Ali and Jack, played by Cam Gigandet. To get them together, the filmmakers force in one quick scene that shows Ali’s hotel room ransacked. Since she now has nowhere to go, Jack takes her in. In a way, all scenes in every movie set up the next because they are telling a story, but a good movie makes the progression feel natural. Burlesque doesn’t.

Burlesque is a musical only in the sense that it has musical numbers, but it fails to capture the spirit of the best in the genre. Not only are the songs not memorable, some don’t even fit naturally into the movie. It sometimes felt like they had written songs for the film and couldn’t figure out a natural way to include them, so they placed them around at random. The best example comes midway through when Tess, as she is about to leave the club for the night, decides instead to practice a new number, which makes no sense since she is not a performer at her club. I guess the mentality of the filmmakers was, “We have Cher. Why not let her sing?”

Although Aguilera’s performance is wooden and insincere, everyone else is lively and fun. The supporting cast, which includes Kristen Bell, Eric Dane, Alan Cumming and the great Stanley Tucci, provide some much needed withdraw from the sappy main story and stilted, if not nonexistent, chemistry between Aguilera and Gigandet. When focusing on these characters, there is some charm to be found, but in a musical as soulless as Burlesque, that counts for very little.

Burlesque receives 1.5/5