This weekend’s big premiere on HBO was last year’s “Mr Popper’s Penguins”.
Loosely based on a children’s book from 1938, “Mr Popper’s Penguins” stars Jim Carrey as a workaholic, divorced father of two who suddenly inherits a small colony of penguins when his long estranged father passes away. Having a batch of penguins around is an inconvenient challenge, and the birds interfere both with his work and his living situation.
But the one thing they do for him is they begin to reconnect him with his family.
Aimed squarely at families, “Popper’s” isn’t a complex film by any means. Neither is it Jim Carrey’s finest hour. But taken for what it is, it’s not the worst movie ever, either.
Carrey plays Tom Popper Jr., a real estate shark who specializes in acquiring high profile properties. Neglected by his globe-trotting father growing up, he finds he’s become an absentee father himself. He only spends every other weekend with his children, who, unsurprisingly, are distant. He’s a smarmy, glib, unlikeable used car salesman… your typical starting point for a Jim Carrey character.
When his long estranged father passes away, Popper receives a crate containing what appears to be a cryogenically frozen penguin. When he removes the bird from the crate, however, it turns out to be alive. Franticly placing a call to the source of the crate in an attempt to return the bird, he instead winds up accidentally ordering more penguins. He soon has six birds in all, and as you can imagine they’re difficult to handle. Compounding matters, the birds have imprinted on him. They now attempt to follow him wherever he goes.
The birds, however, enthrall his children. The two of them now enjoy spending time with their father more than they had previously. As a result, he begins to reconnect – not only with them, but with his ex-wife. As a result, Popper grows very protective of the birds. He finds it a struggle to keep them secret, and to keep them out of the hands of a zealous zookeeper. With the bond strengthening between him and children though, Popper has the motivation to do what needs to be done.
Jim Carrey is up to his old schtick here, albeit a toned down version of his old schtick. The movie is, as expected, sanitized and safe for family viewing. It’s innocuous. But it’s not without occasional moments of mild humor. It’s a family film, so we’re dealing with jokes and gags aimed at seven or eight year olds, a plot that’s really basic, and characters painted in the broadest of strokes. Yet it wasn’t as nauseating as the marketing focused on the dancing penguins might have indicated (although, admittedly, that still leaves a lot of room). Carrey’s an entertaining guy, even if this film did make me wish he was doing better movies.
Silly, saccharine, safe and standardized, “Mr Popper’s Penguins” is a run of the mill “cute animals” movie featuring Jim Carrey doing a “Jim Carrey Lite” act. It’s nothing I’d recommend, but if you get stuck watching it with some children, you won’t have to keep sharp objects out of your own reach, either.