"Mr. Popper's Penguins" (2011) Starring Jim Carrey - An Early Review
Penguins were all the rage a few of years ago, capturing the hearts of many moviegoers in the documentary film March of the Penguins and in the animated film Happy Feet,
featuring a very cute tap dancing penguin (the sequel hits theaters
later this year). Several years later, the birds are front and center
again, courtesy of the new film Mr. Popper's Penguins, based on the book of the same name. The film stars Jim Carrey (I Love You Phillip Morris)
as Tom Popper, a divorced father of two, who seems to place his work
ahead of everything else. However, Tom's life is about to change, as he
inherits six Gentoo penguins from an eccentric relative. Initially, only
one penguin arrives, but soon five more are delivered to his expensive
New York City apartment and, as a result, Tom's life is turned upside
In time, Tom begins to care for
the penguins and he learns that each one has a distinct personality and
are named accordingly. Tom turns his home into a frozen tundra to
accommodate Lovey, Captain, Nimrod, Loudy, Bitey and Stinky (who has an
affinity for passing gas). After his children learn about the penguins,
they make Tom promise to keep them around and not ship them back. Tom
agrees, which sits well with his ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and
viewers will notice that there is still a spark between them. However,
Amanda is currently in a relationship.
Of course, the penguins present
certain problems. For instance, they make a lot of noise, which irks
residents in neighboring apartments. In addition, a zoo official is
intent on taking the penguins from Tom, so that they can be displayed
at the local zoo. Furthermore, the amount of time Tom is spending with
the penguins causes problems for him at work and he is soon fired.
However, Tom was in the process of trying to purchase the famed Tavern
on the Green restaurant for his employer and he is still determined to
see that plan through. Tom is also trying to help his daughter Molly
(Madeline Carroll) through the angst of teenage love, while also keeping
the penguins accessible for his young son, Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton
from "Brothers & Sisters"). In other words, Tom has his hands full.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
is a busy film. Indeed, there are several storylines being played out
and a large numbers of characters to keep track of, at least for a 90
minute film. Jim Carrey is front and center for the most of the film
and, thankfully, he remains mostly restrained in his role. In fact,
Carrey portrays Tom as a likable person, loving father and capable
businessman, who just happens to have a unique situation on his hands.
However, I think director Mark Waters is trying to do too much here, but
making family films is tricky, because you have to capture the
attention of younger children, while also trying to keep their parents
entertained. Younger viewers will enjoy the scenes with the penguins
wrecking havoc, as well as the bathroom humor, which is used repeatedly.
There is also a character named Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond) who speaks in
alliteration, using the letter "P" to perfection. Older viewers will
likely appreciate the appearances of several very talented actors,
including the sublime Jeffrey Tambor (Win Win), who has a cameo. In addition, the great character actor Philip Baker Hall (All Good Things) and the amazing Angela Lansbury ("Murder, She Wrote") are featured in small roles.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
has the potential to please plenty of multiplex patrons when it
premieres. Time will tell if there is enough room for yet another family
friendly film in the busy summer line-up. I suspect that the star power
of Jim Carrey, along with the cute, fun loving penguins should
draw enough interest for parents and their young children to make this
film a modest hit. While Mr. Popper's Penguins may not
win great critical acclaim, it is an entertaining effort, which is all
some viewers are looking for in their summer viewing options.