For reasons that I can’t explain — even to myself — I decided to attend an advance Saturday morning screening of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, a kid-oriented comedy starring Jim Carrey. Yes, the same Jim Carrey who broke onto the big screen talking out his ass in Ace Ventura Pet Detective, but who has shown plenty of versatility in recent years.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Based on a 1938 book by Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr. Popper centers on an ambitious father who’s separated from his wife. He’s also too busy making killings in New York real estate to be much of a dad.
Everything changes for Carrey’s Mr. Popper when his adventurer father passes away and sends him a half dozen penguins. Much of the comedy involves the way Mr. Popper tries to adapt his life to the penguins. It’s no surprise that the birds ultimately contribute to the awakening of Popper’s latent humanity. The good, if predictable, news: Popper re-establishes a relationship with his young son (Maxwell Perry Cotton), his recalcitrant teen-aged daughter (Madeline Carroll) and his former wife (Carla Gugino).
The supporting cast includes Angela Lansbury as owner of New York’s Tavern on the Green, a property that the charming but duplicitous Mr. Popper seeks to buy.
Carrey has an amazing ability to modulate his comedy for a kid-friendly audience, and he can be engaging as a man who learns to love a variety of real and CGI penguins.
Too bad the movie sends the wrong message in vilifying a zookeeper and penguin expert (Clark Gregg) who thinks that keeping penguins in an apartment is a mistake. Isn’t it? Shouldn’t a guy like this have been made into an example rather than a jerk?
By the end of this tame but mildly amusing affair, you can look back fondly on such high points as the scene in which the penguins learn to take care of their bathroom business in Mr. Popper’s toilet. Oh well, the penguins are appropriately cute, and at least they don’t talk out their butts.