All-star Horrible Bosses hardly horrible, Zookeeper for the birds

by Mark Burger


For a one-joke movie, Horrible Bosses manages to remain consistently funny — thanks in large part to those horrible bosses, played with relish by Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell.


As the poor employees bent on eradicating their sadistic supervisors, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis have their share of funny moments, with Bateman essentially playing straight man to his co-stars.

But it’s the bosses who boss this show:

Nobody plays smarm like Spacey, (type) cast here as an unctuous corporate creep. For Aniston, this is an opportunity to play a character both vampy and trampy as a sexually voracious dentist, and she clearly revels in the change of pace, and she looks great doing it. Farrell, with a ridiculous comb-over, has a high old time playing a coke-snorting, wannabe ninja who’s an absolute disgrace to the chemical business founded by his late father (Donald Sutherland, in and out very quickly). Alas, we see less of Farrell than the other bosses.

Having solicited the advice of an excon (Jamie Foxx), who calls himself “Motherf*ckr” Jones”, our three bumbling heroes do their best (and worst) to alleviate their own occupational suffering by snuffing out their bosses. Death be not proud, but it’s sometimes very amusing. Horrible Bosses is no paragon of screen comedy, but it certainly lives up (and down) to its premise. The meaner the film is, usually the better it is.

If you’re going to make a comedy about talking animals, it would be good if you gave them something funny to say.

This does not take place in Zookeeper , a flimsy farce that required the services of five(!) screenwriters in order to render it as thin and threadbare as possible.

Kevin James, one of those aforementioned screenwriters as well as one of the film’s producers, occupies the title role, that of Griffin Keyes, the likable, dutiful (and utterly bland) head zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo. Griffin was dumped by his girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) just as he was proposing, and for five years he’s nursed the hurt — which comes roaring back when Stephanie re-enters his life, replete with a more current ex-boyfriend (Joe Rogan).

What’s a poor, confused zookeeper to do? Why, talk to the animals, of course — and then they start talking back, much to Griffin’s astonishment. There haven’t been this many wide-eyed, open-mouthed reaction shots since they heyday of Macaulay Culkin and Home Alone.

Some of the familiar voices emanating from the animals’ mouths include those of Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte, Cher, Maya Rudolph, Jim Breuer, Jon Favreau, Don Rickles and Adam Sandler, also one of the film’s executive producers. Nick Coraci, one of Sandler’s inhouse directors, is at the helm here, continuing a string of unimpressive works that includes The Waterboy (1998) and Click (2006), as well as a dismal 2004 remake of Around the World in 80 Days, with which Sandler was not involved with and for which he therefore escapes blame.

It’s obvious from the outset that Stephanie is unconscionably shallow, which makes Griffin’s pursuit of her curious as well as tiresome, because it’s just as obvious that the right girl for Griffin is Kate (Rosario Dawson), the zoo’s resident veterinarian and the film’s resident love interest. Dawson is luminous as always, even in a role (and a film) as lackluster as this.

Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Nick Turturro and former big-league ballplayer Todd Zeile (once a Philadelphia Phillie, to his credit) are among the two-legged co-stars on hand here, but they don’t have much to do. Come to think of it, there’s not much here at all for anyone — including the audience.