Mr. Popper’s Penguins

This is a total Jim Carrey film.  Totally in his wheelhouse.  Enough comedy that he is able to do silly stuff with a dollop of touching moments, so that he can demonstrate his range – tailor made.  It all adds up to good Saturday afternoon family film.  It will deliver what you expect from it, nothing more nothing less.

While growing up in the 1970s and 80s, young Tom Popper (Dylan Clark Marshall – Revolutionary Road, Mall Cop) gets calls on the CB radio from his father, who is off in different parts of the world exploring.  The senior Popper is addicted to adventure.  As a result, he misses a lot of his son’s life growing up.  This puts a lot of emotional distance between father and son.

Thirty years later Tom is now Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Mask), a successful businessman. He can talk anyone into selling any piece of property to him. To become a partner in his company the present partners say he has to acquire Tavern on the Green, a restaurant that is the only privately owned property in Central Park.  Tom is divorced from his wife (Carla Gugino – Watchmen, Night at the Museum) and has two kids, a teenage daughter (Madelaine Carroll – The Spy Next Door, Swing Vote) and a younger son (Maxwell Perry Cotton – from television’s Brothers & Sisters).  Popper is a career driven, organized man, who has pretty much put his family second to his work.

One day Tom gets the call that his father has died.  In his will he has left his son “a souvenir”. The next day he gets what he believes to be a frozen stuffed penguin only to discover it is a real penguin.  The penguin predicament makes Tom late for his meeting with Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury – Beauty and the Beast, Bedknobs and Broomsticks), the owner of Tavern on the Green. He leaves the penguin in the bathtub filled with ice.  Predictably, trouble ensues.

Wanting to get rid of the penguin is what Tom wants, but it is not a simple thing. No one, not even animal control will come and pick up the penguin. It is a sticky situation as he is not allowed pets in his building and a nosy neighbour (David Krumholtz – Superbad, 10 Things I Hate About You) wants to catch him red handed breaking the rule.  The next day Popper gets another delivery box. This time it is filled with many penguins.  He now has six in total.

His assistant (Orphelia Lovibond – No Strings Attached, Nowhere Boy) calls the New York Zoo, but his son loves the penguins, so Popper cannot hand them over now.  He has promised his son that the penguins are for him.  He has to ward off the penguin keeper (Clark Gregg – Iron Man, 500 Days of Summer) from the zoo as his kids are now actually spending time with Popper willingly rather than dreading their every second weekend with him.

Popper becomes really attached to the penguins and allows the rest of his life to fall behind, even his job.  Eventually he is fired from his job.  What will this career oriented man do?

I was most amazed by the gentoo penguins, which are the real stars of the film. Other than one obviously CGI dance sequence, live penguins are used in every scene.  They are better actors than some humans I have watched in films.  And very cute to boot!  Animal lovers will eat this up with a spoon.  Though I’m not always a big fan of the special features make sure you watch these ones as it shows you a lot of how the penguins were “trained”.

Carrey does a good job.  Doesn’t overham it up as he sometimes does.  It’s almost as if he realizes that the penguins are the true stars and allows them to be front and center.  By him doing this he makes his performance that much better.

Film goes along at a good clip with very few down moments.  It is primarily a comedy, but there are also plenty of good and important life lessons as well.  At first glance you might think that the story of the film is a silly one, but director Mark Waters (The Spiderwick Chronicles, Mean Girls) executes it well so it ends up working.  Better than your average family movie.

Special Features:

-Nimrod and Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure

-Deleted Scenes

-Gag Reel

-Ready For Their Close Up

-Ladies and Gentoomen

-Original Story Sampler

-Theatrical Trailer

-Sneak Peek of Spy Kids: All the Time in the World and Tooth Fairy 2

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