While the premise of Kevin James playing Dr. Doolittle to a bunch of talking animals seems like something you can imagine and summarily dismiss in a matter of seconds, the new trailer for Zookeeper reveals one aspect of the film you probably weren’t predicting: It’s practically an ad for T.G.I. Friday’s, with an entire plot thread devoted to James and a Nick Nolte-voiced gorilla visiting the restaurant chain. And this only after a scene in which the two discuss it in tones suggesting T.G.I. Friday's is some sort of mythical food nirvana revered by every species on Earth.
But while this may seem like simply one of the most egregious examples of product placement in post-Mac And Me memory, perhaps its inclusion has more thematic relevance than you think. Because much like T.G.I. Friday’s, a Kevin James comedy traffics in a safe, reliable mediocrity—hardly a meal that will inflame the senses and make you relish being alive, but nothing that will leave you retching from a fetal position either. In other words, it’s bland, fatty, and ultimately forgettable.
And just as you can be sure that every plate of loaded potato skins or Jack Daniel’s® Ribs arrives exactly the same, so too can you know that Kevin James will hit his head and fall down within the first minute of this trailer, or that he’ll have a disproportionately hot love interest (Leslie Bibb). You’ll also know that, no matter what sort of strange, exotic names they bring in to spice things up—such as Cher, Sylvester Stallone, Don Rickles, Jon Favreau, Judd Apatow, and Maya Rudolph voicing the various animals who help James with his romantic pursuit—ultimately their addition is no more distinguishable than having Adam Sandler trot out his usual routine as a monkey, just like T.G.I. Friday’s Japanese Hibachi Skewers hardly offer a passable taste of the Orient. But as one might say to the suggestion of hitting up T.G.I. Friday’s for lunch: “Okay, whatever.” Enjoy this cinematic equivalent of fried mozzarella sticks.