Who doesn’t love penguins? Moviegoers get a big dose of the waddle-prone cuties in Mr. Popper's Penguins starring Jim Carrey. While the movie has little diversity in its scope or change of scenes, kids will love the funny antics of the penguins and parents might enjoy that Carrey is not over the top in this movie and actually learns a lesson – even if it’s one overused in family films.
Popper (Carrey), as addressed by colleagues and his children alike, is one of those New York real estate tycoons who have lost sight of the real world. He lives in an upscale Park Avenue apartment building and gets occasional visits from his children who are happier to leave than arrive.
When a delivery of a large wooden box arrives, we get a little back-story about Tommy Popper’s life as a young boy. From the time he was very young he would get a call from his globe trotting father over his ham radio as he was off to the next adventure. He never had enough time to come home and see Tommy.
Those reflections as Popper begins to pry open the box tells all there is to know about the lonely and self-absorbed Popper. He’s expecting another bizarre gift from his late father – something to hang on a shelf to remind him of what was more important in his father’s life. So when he lifts a solidly stiff penguin out of the box he sticks it on a table. Only minutes later the penguin is walking around the apartment and squawking.
An attempt to return the penguin to Antarctica fails miserably, and soon Popper’s home is populated by five more birds. Incensed and befuddled, Popper is just about to offer them to the zoo when his children come to visit. His son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) believes they are his birthday present. Popper – finally earning some good strokes from his son and teenage daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll), is forced into promising he will never let them leave the apartment.
Carla Gugino, Maxwell Perry Cotton,
Madeline Carroll, Jim Carrey
Captain, Lovey, Bitey, Nimrod, Stinky and Loudy – named for their different personalities – soon become household fixtures, along with snow on the floor, freezing temperatures and an owner whose colleagues have begun to question his behavior.
Billy and Janie now can’t wait to visit their dad and often bring along their mother, Amanda (Carla Gugino), who is divorced from Popper and dating someone else. However, when Amanda sees the length to which Popper goes in protecting the kids and the birds, she takes a deeper look into the man her ex has become.
Hands full of kids and penguins running amuck aren’t Popper’s only problems. He’s also in hot competition over an historic property owned by Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), and she’s not impressed with him. Popper also has an assistant, Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond), whose annoying and intentionally fast dialogue is not understandable. For me, that character adds nothing to the movie other than ticking minutes on the clock.
Mr. Popper's Penguins is based on the novel originally published in 1938 by Richard and Florence Atwater. Although I haven’t read the book, I’m told it’s very different than the film. Happily, Jim Carrey is actually enjoyable to watch in Mr. Popper's Penguins as he goes through several character arcs. Children will adore this funny film and parents who must tag along will get some laughs out of it as well.