Jim Carrey needs to have a word with himself, or his agent. Because he’s been off his game for a while and needs to find his way back. I actually really liked I Love You Philip Morris but he then goes and undoes his good work by starring in something like A Christmas Carol. Or Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Carrey plays the titular Mr. Popper and, in case the title didn’t give you a clue, he ends up with a number of penguins in his life. Penguins that have, fortunately enough, certain traits making them easier to differentiate. They end up being named “Captain”, “Lovey”, “Loudy”, “Bitey”, “Stinky” and “Nimrod”. Which sums up the level of effort put in to the film. Mr. Popper is a very successful businessman who can always close a deal but, quelle surprise, he is just about to thrash out the most important deal of his career so far when the penguins enter his life and cause havoc. But the chaotic penguins also help him enjoy more quality time with his kids, show him in a better light to his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and learn a lesson or two before the entirely predictable finale.
It’s a shame that Mr. Popper’s Penguins falls so squarely into the realm of the mediocre because while it’s a simple, high-concept movie it’s also one that could have been so much better than what was actually made.
Let’s start with the cast, all of whom have the potential for greatness. Jim Carrey is not a favourite for everyone but I have enjoyed his antics for many years and really like his schtick when he’s on top form. Carla Gugino is just fine and other small roles are taken by names as varied as Angela Lansbury, Philip Baker Hall, Jeffrey Tambor and David Krumholtz. The kids playing the kids are fine. And Ophelia Lovibond has some fun as Pippi, an assistant to Mr. Popper who always speaks in alliteration, selecting words that begin with the letter “p”. Sadly, nobody gets to do anything memorable. They are, instead, sidelined for antics involving water, ice and/or penguin pooh. Kids will laugh at the pooh gags but it’s sad that there’s nothing more humourous to recommend within the movie.
Director Mark Waters has a hit and miss track record and obviously relies on a smart script to get better results (providing audiences with great movies like Mean Girls and The House Of Yes). Sean Anders, John Morris and Jared Stern don’t create that script and so the whole movie is brought down a few nothces.
I really wanted to warm to Mr. Popper’s Penguins but, sadly, I’d have to recommend most people give it the cold shoulder.
DIRECTOR: MARK WATERS
WRITER: SEAN ANDERS, JOHN MORRIS, JARED STERN (BASED ON THE NOVEL BY RICHARD ATWATER AND FLORENCE ATWATER)
STARS: JIM CARREY, CARLA GUGINO, ANGELA LANSBURY, PHILIP BAKER HALL, JEFFREY TAMBOR, DAVID KRUMHOLTZ, OPHELIA LOVIBOND
RUNTIME: 94 MINS APPROX