Director: Mark Waters
Writers: Sean Anders, John Morris, Jared Stern, Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater
Stars: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll, Clark Gregg, Maxwell Perry Cotton
SYNOPSIS: When his late father sends him a souvenir in the form of a penguin from one of his last adventures, slick and savvy Tom Popper's professional life is thrown upside down, even though he seems to be getting his personal life back as a result.
REVIEW: What do you get when you mash together Jim Carrey's Ace Ventura: Pet Detective with Liar, Liar? You get some of the elements from the Richard and Florence Atwater novel, Mr. Popper's Penguins with the classic Jim Carrey flare. Director Mark Waters of Jamie Lee Curtis' Freaky Friday and Mean Girls fame takes a adaptation of the 1938 children's novel to provide Carrey with a film vehicle perfect for his style. But does this black tie affair lend itself to a standing ovation? Or does Mr. Popper's Penguins make you wish you went more casual dress?
Jim Carrey stars as Tom Popper, a man whose childhood was filled with expectant HAM radio calls from his adventurer father as he traveled the globe in search of a treasured find that always seemed just out of reach. As Tom grew up, his father reached out to him more and more infrequently, and eventually abandoned the Popper family altogether. As an adult, Tom Popper is divorced with two kids, focusing all of his energies on the business of acquiring properties in New York City so they can be torn down for more shiny metal monstrosities. All of a sudden, Popper receives a final souvenir from his late father in the form of a penguin. Trying to get rid of "Captain", Popper finds himself with five more penguins - to his chagrin and his children's delight.
Similar to Liar, Liar where Carrey's character must realize that family should rise above the grind and emptiness of a ruthless career, Mr. Popper takes a journey of discovery and re-discovery with the assistance of "Captain", "Loudy", "Bitey", "Lovey", "Stinky" and "Nimrod". Their names fit their personalities perfectly and provide much of the fun to the film. Kids will find the penguins funny, gross and endearing. I think even some of the adults will find them charming as well. Jim Carrey actually finds himself the straight man much of the time as the Charlie Chaplin-loving formal fowl take many of the pratfalls. You still see a bit of the old manic Jim Carrey, but only a few times (and not too often) that doesn't takes away from the penguins. Sure, the penguins are CGI, but other than one or two "where should I put my hands so the CG artists can put in the penguin later" moments, each has a character worth watching.
While Popper thinks his nemesis comes in the form of finned fowl, he also has to contend with a daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll) who thinks his dad is just like Popper's dad, an official Nat Jones (Iron Man's Clark Gregg) bent on taking the penguins away to the zoo, bosses Franklin (Philip Baker Hall), Yates (William Charles Mitchell) and Reader (Dominic Chianese) pushing Popper to close a deal to buy Tavern on the Green from Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), neighbor Kent (David Krumholtz looking for any excuse to have Popper evicted, and apartment concierge Daryl (Desmin Borges) looking for a payout at every turn from Popper to look the other way about the illegal pets. Gregg uses his stoic agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. demeanor to be menacing and bumbling, while Borges uses his slim position of power to comic success. Krumholtz as the neighbor is underdeveloped and serves no purpose.
Rounding out the cast are Ophelia Lovibond as Mr. Popper's assistant Pippi who speaks with a lot of words that begin with "p", the always lovely Carla Gugino as Popper's ex-wife Amanda, and Maxwell Perry Cotton as Popper's son Billy who starts Popper's misery and gets the ball rolling by thinking the penguins are birthday presents for him.
Mr. Popper's Penguins may have strayed wildly from the 1938 novel, but the fowl in this film will flap their way into your hearts. From a penguin who sees an American bald eagle fly on the television and wonders why she can't achieve lift-off, to a egg that does not want to hatch, to a bird that loves to give hugs, these flightless birds make a movie that soars.
WORTH: Matinee or DVD