The film, directed by Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer,” “The Waterboy”), stars James as a zookeeper, who with the help of the animals in his zoo who reveal they can talk, try to help him gain the attention of the girl of his dreams, played by Leslie Bibb (“Talladega Nights,” “Iron Man” 1 & 2).
Among the stars lending their voices to the animals are Sylvester Stallone (as Joe the Lion), Adam Sandler (as Donald the Monkey), Cher (as Janet the Lioness) and MMA legend Bas Rutten (as Sebastian the Wolf).
Rutten told MMAWeekly.com of how he got involved in “The Zookeeper,” “I’ve know Kevin James for a long time now, about 14 years, he is one of the first friends I made in the U.S.
“I have done many projects with him, like for the ‘King of Queens’ and for Sony we shot the web series ‘Dusty Peacock.’ He likes what I am doing so he asked me if I was interested to be the voice of the wolf in ‘The Zookeeper,’ and needless to say, I said yes.”
Rutten went on to further explain the reason why his relationship with James works so well.
“Kevin is the same person as he was when I met him 14 years ago, when he was doing the first season of ‘King of Queens,’” said Rutten. “I admire people like that.
“I know many other people who became successful and suddenly turned out to be A-holes. Not Kevin, he’s a perfectionist, and just an all around good guy. He and I have a lot in common and there is never a sad moment when we hook up.”
Unlike Rutten’s previous work with James, for “The Zookeeper,” Rutten spent his days in a voice-over studio recording his dialog instead of on set acting.
Rutten said of doing the voice-overs, “It’s about the same, but a little bit more difficult because you have to match the animal’s mouth.
“I tried to go into character for it, and if you see the scene, just think that I am doing in the studio exactly what the Wolf is showing him, you will right away see what I mean with this.”
As for his role in “The Zookeeper” as Sebastian the Wolf, Rutten said, “(James’ character) has a problem with a girl and the animals are teaching him how to handle her.
“Of course every animal has his own techniques and so does Sebastian the Wolf. I talk to him about how to ‘mark his territory.’”
With so many big movies coming out this summer, Rutten feels that “The Zookeeper” has what it takes to stand out from the crowd in thanks to its star, James.
“I don’t think there is an actor out there who did a movie like this and made it as believable as (James) did,” said Rutten. “It really looks like he’s interacting with the animals, and that is something hard to pull off.
“This is just a really good family movie. There will be a lot of laughs and some fun action for the people who are going to watch it, and that’s what everybody needs in this crazy busy world.”