Australian Council on Children and the Media

Zookeeper

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Violence, coarse language, sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Zookeeper
  • a review of Zookeeper completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 5 September 2011.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to violence, adult themes, coarse language and sexual references
Children aged 8-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, adult themes, coarse language and sexual references
Children over the age of 13 OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Zookeeper
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild crude humour
Length 102 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Following a humiliating marriage proposal rejection by Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) dedicates himself to bringing happiness to the lives of the animals in his charge.  Years later, he unexpectedly meets up with Stephanie again and this rekindles his unrequited feelings towards her. 

Griffin decides that the only way to win Stephanie’s affection is to change into the kind of man she wants.  For this reason, Griffin considers leaving the zoo to take up a higher paid, more prestigious job in his brother Dave’s car dealership.  In an effort to prevent this move, the zoo animals work together to help Griffin win Stephanie back.  The animals involved in this plot include Joe the lion (voice of Sylvester Stallone), his partner Janet (voice of Cher), Jerome the bear (voice of Jon Favreau) and his friend Bruce the bear (voice of Faizon Love), Bernie the gorilla (voice of Nick Nolte), Donald the monkey (voice of Adam Sandler), and Sebastian the wolf (voice of Bas Rutten).

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Separation from loved ones; betrayal; adult relationships

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a great deal of cartoon-style violence which does not depict realistic consequences.  Examples include:

  • Bruce and Jerome the bears yell at each other and then begin slapping and wrestling one another;
  • Griffin kicks Gale and tries to force him off the road while they are both cycling;
  • Gale repeatedly hits Griffin over the head and shoulders with a flexible plastic bicycle flag post.
  • There are also some more realistic depictions of verbal, physical and emotional violence, such as when:
  • Stephanie screams at Griffin;
  • An unidentified boy taunts, and throws things at, Jerome and Bruce the bears;
  • Griffin kicks Shane with force in the groin, leaving him bent over and screaming;
  • Shane taunts Bernie the gorilla, and then throws an apple so that it hits a wall above, and shatters into pieces all over him.  This is clearly done as an act of bullying and humiliation.
  • Bernie the gorilla describes the physically and emotionally abusive actions of zoo worker Shane;
  • Griffin threatens to beat up Shane in front of his mother.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • Close-up shots of wild animals displaying aggression, such as Joe the lion roaring, Sebastian the wolf growling and baring his sharp teeth, and Bernie the gorilla screaming and thumping his chest.
  • Several scenes depicting zoo animals escaping their cages and running loose among adults and children.
  • An unidentified boy falls into the bear enclosure and it appears that he will be attacked;
  • Accidents involving Griffin being injured by animals, falling over, falling from heights, and hitting his head.
  • Griffin clings to Bernie the gorilla’s back as he scales a very tall bridge, and it appears that either one or both will fall to their death.
  • Janet the lion is rushed in to the zoo’s medical centre, with reports that she is not breathing and it initially appears that she will die.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film

Product placement

There is some product placement, including

  • Various car brands
  • Red Bull

Sexual references

There are a number of sexual references in this movie including: 

  • Zoo worker Venom (Ken Jeong) greets Dave’s fiancé with an inappropriately long hug, and follows this with the suggestive comment, “you’re not married yet, right…”
  • Jerome the bear, giving advice to Griffin comments, “when I take down a female…”.  He follows this up with a discussion about a female bear he once knew, who was, “born with an extra claw, and let me tell you, she knows how to use it…Canadian bears are wild!”
  • Sebastian the wolf discusses the behaviours that he feels, “attracts the ladies”;
  • Gale and Stephanie perform a sexually suggestive dance together;
  • Griffin and Kate perform a sexually suggestive dance together;
  • Griffin is forced to reach into both of male co-worker Venom’s front trouser pockets to find a car key.  There is an unspoken suggestion that Venom has engineered this for his own perverse pleasure;
  • Gale says of himself and Stephanie, “we make out, hard”;
  • Griffin says, “Robin is bendy”, with raised eyebrows, to which Dave adds, “yeah, agile”, while making a suggestive facial expression.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • Griffin is shown taking a bath.  Only his top half is visible.
  • There are also some scenes that imply inappropriate bodily exposure, such as when Griffin urinates against a tree in the zoo, and then again inside a restaurant.  Whilst viewers are not able to see anything, on both occasions, it is implied that other characters see Griffin’s penis. There are also discussions about the sexual attractiveness of public urination.
  • A passionate kiss between Kate and Griffin.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • social drinking of alcohol

Coarse language

There are some coarse language, putdowns and toilet humour in this movie, including:

  •  “Freakin”; “Friggin”; “Fuuuu” (unfinished);
  • “Jesus”; “God”; “Oh God”;
  • “Hell”; “What the hell”;
  • “It sucks”;
  •  “Awh crap”
  • “That’s a stinkin’ pile”;
  •  “Sick freak”;
  • “Willie Wonka” (said as a put-down);
  • “Grandma hair”;
  •  “You come here, and I’ll use you as a loofah” (said as a threat).

In a nutshell

Zookeeper is a reasonably entertaining comedy, which may appeal to a cross-section of age groups, although it is not recommended for the under 8s. Much of the humour is derived from either sexual references or depictions of accidents involving physical discomfort or injury to the main character.

The film’s predominant message is that people cannot be happy or satisfied with life until they are able to be true to themselves.  Unfortunately, there are some problematic subtexts, such as the notion that violence is an appropriate means of resolving conflict and therefore, those with the most power are likely to come out on top.  Divorced or separated parents may be concerned about the film’s idealised depiction of “true” love as singular and life-long.  In addition, the movie contains numerous discussions of the best ways to “get” a female, which could be interpreted as promoting a view of women as objects or possessions.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • loyalty;
  • honesty and integrity;
  • team work

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • The negative outcomes of violence and alternative options for conflict resolution;
  • The complexity of human relationships;
  • The potential problems associated with selfish and materialistic attitudes; and
  • The consequences of seeking to manipulate others, rather than allowing them to be true to themselves.

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