'Blart' producers reteam for comedy

Kevin James, fresh from “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” will star in the title role in MGM’s “The Zookeeper” for director Frank Coraci.

In a reteam of “Blart” producers, Happy Madison’s producing with James and Jeff Sussman through their Hey Eddie shingle and Todd Garner through his Broken Road banner.

“Zookeeper,” penned by Jay Scherick and David Ronn, centers on a lonely zookeeper who decides to leave his job because he can’t meet a girl, leading to intervention by the zoo’s animals.

MGM won a bidding war last April for the spec, paying $2 million against $3 million, while the studio was in the midst of ramping up a slate of homegrown projects.

Garner, who originated the idea, told Daily Variety that James had always been his first choice for the role, particularly due to his ability to perform physical comedy. He also said that production would probably start this summer on the East Coast.

James recently signed on with Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade for a high-school reunion comedy for Sony to be produced by Happy Madison (Daily Variety, Feb. 11).

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