A film like Paul Blart Zookeeper (yes, that is the official title, please update your notes) isn’t the type of film I’d normally review. The target audience knows what they’re getting, and hey, I’m not 10. But the trailer was on TV every five minutes, and every time I saw it, I felt like I’d taken peyote. Was Kevin James really singing a duet of a popular hip hop song with a fake gorilla? This was some modern day Ed Wood-type sh*t, or maybe just part of Adam Sandler’s experiment to find the actual lowest common denominator, to discover just what it would take to hit the tipping point, at which he’d actually underestimated the audience’s intelligence/cultural savvy, when they’d finally turn on him. On that note, Paul Blart Zookeeper had me intrigued. If not as a movie then as a sociological experiment. I had to witness it firsthand.
Here’s what I learned: Kevin James falls down. A lot. A lion gets sick, and he falls down. The animals talk for the first time, he falls down. He tries to test out a tire swing for a gorilla, and he falls down. Romantic bike ride, he falls down. Wedding? Falls down. He goes to a fancy dinner party and pees on a fake plant, because the zoo wolf voiced by Bas Rutten told him to and he listened for some reason; he falls down. If they awarded an Oscar for falling down, the man would trip three times on the way to the podium and probably fart.
Then about twenty minutes into the film, a funny thing happened. I was all set to ridicule this ridiculous movie — a movie where Paul Blart’s smoking-hot, gloriously big-breasted (BUT TOTALLY PLATONIC) co-zookeeper played by Rosario Dawson is introduced in the first five minutes of the film and we’re expected to wait until the last ten before she and lardass finally kiss. A movie where the main character keeps taking zoo animals’ advice about scratching his back on trees and peeing in public for some reason. A movie about a man trying to win back a fake gorilla’s faith in humanity (quoth the gorilla: “I guess that’s just what humans do, Griffin. They lie.”). Luckily Kevin James takes the gorilla to Friday’s, a corporate restaurant chain with which the gorilla is obsessed, OBVIOUSLY, (even though when he gets there he orders 30 oranges), and all is right with the world. THANK YOU, FRIDAYS, YOUR COMFORTABLE FOOD AND RELAXED ATMOSPHERE HAS BROUGHT JOY TO A MISANTHROPIC GORILLA! Where was I? Oh right, so I was planning to make fun of all these things, but about a third of the way in, all I could focus on was how much the enormous, foothill with hair wearing a tracksuit to my right was enjoying it, his vibrating rolls making rings in my coke like Jurassic Park with every belly laugh.
What did it matter what I thought, now that I’d been given such a perfect opportunity to observe a true response from Paul Blart Zookeeper‘s target audience? I soon took to cataloging his responses. Here is the be-tracksuited human hillock’s impromptu review, as I was able to observe it:
As Paul Blart was putting a polo shirt on the gorilla (so that he could blend in) and rapping “Apple-Bottomed Jeans” with him in the car on the way to Friday’s, hillock-man exclaimed, “Freakin’ awesome, man!”
When the gorilla was hitting on the waitress at Friday’s: “Haha! Gorilla got skills!”
When Ken Jeong (playing the zoo’s reptile guy, Venom — yep, he’s in everything now, he’s like the Korean Samuel L. Jackson) drove up in a classic Mustang with the vanity plate SSSSS: “That’s badass!” And also “That is hot!” as well as “Awesome!”
Paul Blart knocks over the bride at his brother’s wedding: “Oh damn!”
Paul Blart splits his pants when he tries to get into “attack position” with his rival (on advice from a bullfrog), played by Joe Rogan: “Priceless!”
I guess what I’m trying to say is, while I initially showed up to Zookeeper to make fun of it, it just didn’t seem right. Does it really matter what you or I think of a film like this? I’m trying to be more accepting, and if I ignored my own reactions to the film and focused only on the smiling faces of the audience in attendance, it made it that much easier. Maybe it’s wrong to see it as some craven cash grab, some insult to high culture, a symptom of society’s dulling. Perhaps instead, we should see it only for all the joy it brings to retarded people.