DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD
STARRING: VINCE VAUGHN, KEVIN JAMES, WINONA RYDER, JENNIFER CONNELLY, CHANNING TATUM, AMY MORTON with CLINT HOWARD and QUEEN LATIFAH
Beth is the kind of girlfriend who’s around because she likes the guy and isn’t just morally obligated to be. I found her reminiscent of Emily Deschanel’s character from ‘Glory Road’ as well as one of Jennifer Connelly herself in the self-help kitsch called ‘He’s just not that into you.’ She’s the next generation. Women in romantic comedies leave their men only to return when proven against, to arms that always stay open no matter what. Beth is a progression from that stereotype. She’s the woman who has a hand in the resolution, not just reaping the benefits and signing her name on the ‘happily ever after’ charter. She’s organic, she’s more than that. And she’s played by the bankable Ms. Connelly who, I felt, dropped anchor and was completely at home with playing Beth.
But this story is not about her. It’s about everyone else. It’s about her boyfriend Ronny Valentine (Vince Vaughn) who faces ‘the Dilemma’ on whether or not he should tell his friend that his wife’s cheating on him. It’s about Nick Brannen (Kevin James), his friend, who spends too much time revving up car engines that he doesn’t see his wife texting as much as a tween. And of course, it’s about Geneva Brannen (Winona Ryder), Nick’s wife, who plays Diane Lane to Channing Tatum’s Olivier Martinez. The film in itself is like a comic ‘Unfaithful’ with two Richard Geres instead of one – one who isn’t aware of what’s going on and another who tries to put a stop to it. But then it’s not all that funny either because it can’t afford it. At one point responsibility kicks in and wants it to be honest to the emotions involved instead of coming out as a farce and then conveniently calling it ‘black.’
I thought the entire success of Ron Howard’s film rested on how well he treated the least common denominator. Beth, in this case (I leave out the sister, her husband and Queen Latifah’s frivolous little cameo citing irrelevance). Take her out and if the film survives, then it had better not been made. But then Connelly constitutes the entire acting credibility of this film. She, I thought, kept the whole film intact, as well as Nick, Ronny and the rest of the lot. On the writer’s part, I wished her more importance; to the director, I appealed for more time. It’s almost like a real husband-wife thing – the woman is so goddamn nice that you wish she were treated right. It’s not infuriating when she’s not. It’s plain wrong.
Overall, ‘the Dilemma’ is a film that has the ever-likeable Kevin James (though you wish he weren’t always cast as one among the money and hence the pretty wife), the successfully annoying Ms. Ryder and a deflated Vince Vaughn on a Jennifer Connelly platform. It’s a five on ten.
DIRECTED BY FRANK CORACI
STARRING: KEVIN JAMES, ROSARIO DAWSON, LESLIE BIBB, DONNIE WAHLBERG and KEN JEONG with the voices of SYLVESTER STALLONE, CHER, ADAM SANDLER, JUDD APATOW, JON FAVREAU, FAIZON LOVE with MAYA RUDOLPH and NICK NOLTE
I have always found it uncanny that the best things a person says go unheard of, lost inside his own head. In a sad way, of course. Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) speaks his mind out, but he does that only to zoo animals, the ones in his care. They eventually talk back. He finds they always could. One of them (a Capuchin Monkey) has Adam Sandler’s hoarsened and accented bawl. An alpha-male Gorilla has Nick Nolte’s deep-yet-friendly tone. Stallone does a Lion King while Cher plays his disapproving ‘better half.’ Them, and a dozen other animals, want to help Griffin get his girlfriend Stephanie (Leslie Bibb) back. Because she’s a supermodel. And because Rosario Dawson goes de-glam with gloves and boots.
The animals are a convincing assortment and an excellent platform for something amusing. In the end, only one of them gets the leg-up. The others just sit around and order in. Or well, almost. We have watched them talk in ‘Madagascar.’ There has also been ‘the Wild’ and ‘Open Season’ and sequels galore. What makes this film any different? There’s something inimitable about the delightfulness in watching talking animals in live-action. They bring out the child in you. That way, ‘Zookeeper’ is just about everything that was likeable about ‘Dr. Dolittle.’ In fact, it is everything that Dr. Dolittle ought to have been but never even tried. Plus, it has Kevin James at the centre. He makes better a fat man cartoon than live-action. ‘Zookeeper’ in itself is more like a cartoon that’s well-adapted, voiced by a kick-ass bunch of actors. It’s remarkable.
‘Zookeeper’ is THE talking-animal movie we have been waiting for, if there ever can be one. Sometimes you’d be so tired you wish you had a Gorilla that could drive for you. And you find you need a film like this for you to know that it’s a bad idea.