Review of Mr. Popper's Penguins


Movie Review: "Mr. Popper's Penguins"

-- Rating: PG (mild rude humor, some language)
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: June 17, 2011
Directed by: Mark Waters
Genre: Comedy/Family

The 1938 children's book upon which "Mr. Popper's Penguins" is based featured a lead character who was a house painter who is happily married with loving, well-behaved children. In order to amp up the comedy, the film version has changed many of these facts, leaving only the plot about Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) inheriting six penguins from his father that he is now charged to take care of.

The film version of Mr. Popper is not married, but instead divorced from wife Amanda (Carla Gugino), who he still seems to have a somewhat good relationship with. They try really hard to get along and agree on things for the sake of the two kids, Janie (Madeline Carroll) and Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton). Unfortunately, the two kids don't seem to get along with their dad, especially teenager Janie, who resents him for some unstated reason.

One day, Mr. Popper receives a package that is supposed to be a lone penguin that his father left to him in his will. Unfortunately, he somehow ends up with six of the cute creatures instead, setting the stage for plenty of mischiefs. The six penguins each have a distinct personality and spend a lot of time passing gas and having to poop.

Mr. Popper is extraordinarily unhappy with the arrangement because they start making a mess of his very clean, almost Spartan Manhattan apartment, which looks like nobody lives there. A few hours after they arrive, the penguins turn the apartment from something that could have been photographed for the pages of "Architectural Digest" to a complete madhouse.

Meanwhile, Mr. Popper, who is a real estate developer rather than a housepainter like in the book, is trying to snatch a historic piece of land from the genteel Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury) in order to demolish it and put up a much more profitable building. He is just the type of person to make a wicked deal to tear down a piece of history, which is part of the reason why nobody really likes him.

Slowly, the presence of the penguins, who need almost constant supervision, begins to change Mr. Popper. He begins to come to realizations like what an absentee father he was and how he still loves Amanda. He slowly begins to try and win his family back while also changing the way he does business.

"Mr. Popper's Penguins" is the type of family movie that has lots of life lessons while also throwing in an occasionally crude but hilariously funny moment. The penguins provide the vast majority of the comic relief as they try to navigate their way around their new surroundings. Though the humor is clearly aimed at children, most adults will find themselves giggling along as well.

Carrey turns in a fine performance, using his rubbery face and penchant for crazy expressions. His comic timing is perfect, even if he is talking to penguins who are computer generated. Thankfully, the CGI penguins are done very well and are not a distraction. In fact, the film employed both real and CGI penguins during filming, and it is hard if not impossible to differentiate between the two.

British actress Ophelia Lovibond is well-known in her native country England, but has not quite made a name for herself yet in the U.S. That is all likely to change with "Mr. Popper's Penguins," as she almost steals the show from the veteran Carrey with her quirky take on Pippi, the long-suffering assistant to Mr. Popper. When the penguins aren't on screen creating laughs, Pippi dependably brings out the chuckles with her over-the-top reactions and somewhat airheaded lines. Lovibond also has a good feel for physical comedy and timing, which should ensure a long career in Hollywood.

Director Mark Waters does an excellent job of mixing live action and CGI for the film, which is something he has had plenty of practice in. Some of his previous films include "Just Like Heaven" and "The Spiderwick Chronicles," both of which had healthy dose of CGI in them. He brings his experienced, skillful hands to "Mr. Popper's Penguins," turning what could have been a run-of-the-mill kid flick into an enjoyable film for the whole family. The fact that a few good life lessons about family, love and responsibility are added in is a bonus for parents, who will have no trouble enjoying the movie as much as their kids.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars