Film Review: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Directed by Mark Waters
Starring Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Ophelia Lovibond & Angela Lansbury

I love Jim Carrey. Ever since I was a child I found him to be a perfect comedian; funny, charming and loved by all ages. His mistakes are rare and his successes are glorious. Sadly his career of late has not been the sharpest, whilst films like A Christmas Carol and Yes Man are fun, they are no marvels of cinema, more just easygoing crowd pleasers. This is once again an easygoing crowd pleaser but it’s not all bad. Carrey portrays Thomas Popper, a real estate mogul who has a strained relationship with children and ex-wife (Gugino). His adventurer father has just died and in his will has left Thomas a live penguin, due to a “comedic” misunderstanding he winds up with 5 penguins. Comedy ensues and maybe, this wild adventure might just teach Thomas a little bit about family.

Mr Popper Penguins

There are many family comedies about fathers not having time for their children (Night at the Museum, Click, RV), and this is one of the better ones. Carrey is just likeable enough to make this picture work, many people may be turned off by his gurning expressions but they still feel as charming to me now as they did when I was a kid. The film is not packed with laughs; there are small titters here and there, but nothing memorable. The penguins are adorable (as penguins often are) and they help make the movie watchable, due to the cuteness factor, we start to care about the flightless birds, and when one of them pulls of a stunt at the end, it warmed this critic’s usually cold heart. It was nice to see real penguins in many of the shots as opposed to CGI. Carla Gugino still holds onto the most irrelevant actress ever award, she could be replaced with a cardboard cutout in all her roles and the effect would still be the same. Members of the supporting cast Ophelia Lovibond (whose running joke starts off sweet, then gets annoying and then sweet again) and Jeffrey Tambor help offer the more entertaining moments.

The film is definitely nothing to write home about, it’s an amiable family comedy that has it’s heart in the right place but offers very little new and is short on laughs. With a less capable lead actor the film would most likely have been a train wreck but instead Carrey puts the charm on full and gives us a nice 90 mins where we can sit back and forget our troubles. In a summer where the kids have a choice of The Smurfs and Zookeeper, this is easily the best film they could pick (despite the fact that the studio have really missed a trick by not making this a winter release). Not Carrey’s finest hour but far from his worst.


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