Our contest is strictly confined to the animal kingdom in this edition of Movie Smackdown. The creatures competing in the bout are Joey, the title character of the Steven Spielberg-directed War Horse, and the small dog/cat gang on a wilderness trek in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Despite the vastly different settings of the two (the trenches and no-man’s-land of World War I in the former and the California wilderness in Homeward), the two are both family friendly, featuring epic journeys aimed at reuniting beasts and masters. Hard work indeed, but the hardest is ahead—competing against each other in this Smackdown. […]
Animals have more acute senses than people do and an entirely different way of looking at things, so it stands to reason that audiences have been lapping up talking animal stories since that snake was introduced in the first act of Genesis. Hollywood really pricked up its ears back in ’98, when the Dr. Dolittle remake starring Eddie Murphy became the highest grossing live-action film ever made in the genre. That’s when the industry started tossing them out like so many chew-toys: the Babe sequel, Stuart Little, Narnia… and that doesn’t even count animation.
Now, along comes Zookeeper, which has more than a few things in common with the good Doctor: a depressed animal that needs tender loving care, a know-it-all beast that dispenses good advice when necessary, a really annoying creature that talks too much, and a likable human being — in this case played by Kevin James — who has less success with his own species than he does with his furry friends. Dr. Dolittle and Zookeeper both go for the laughs, but both also play as wish-fulfillment for the odd duck within us all — the one that craves a little primal understanding when we don’t quite fit in. […]