Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Let me pose a question in your direction. If you hate every single character in a film clearly designed for family consumption, how successful do you think said film will be? Granted, I don't usually bother myself with box office tracking or reporting; I don't think that's the job of a film critic. But I couldn't help but wonder as I endured MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS, "Who is going to enjoy this?" And for those of you who guessed that there might be a penguin poop joke or two in this movie, you win a prize.
Back to crowd-pleasing mode after his triumphant return to form in I LOVE YOU PHILLIPS MORRIS, Jim Carrey plays Mr. Popper, a real estate wizard looking to become partner in his firm (run by Philip Baker Hall). As part of his rise to the power, Popper has lost his wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and fickle, annoying kids. He sees them on occasion, but Popper seems OK not seeing them. Popper grew up admiring his absentee father, who spent months at a time traveling to exotic locations, keeping in touch with his son via ham radio.
When said father dies, he leaves Popper a small army of penguins to care for, as fathers tend to do. As much as he'd love to unload the penguins in the care of marine fowl expert Nat Jones (IRON MAN and THOR's Clark Gregg), Popper's kids take to the penguins, and soon Popper's luxury apartment is turned into a winter playground in which both kids and penguins can frolic. But when his attempts to purchase the Tavern on the Green property from its owner (Angela Lansbury) falls short, Popper has doubts that his good-dad routine is good for him. I'm exhausted just thinking about how unnecessarily complicated this film is. There are more "villains" in this movie than are necessary, and all of them pale in comparison to how bratty Popper's kids are or how much of a Class A douche he is.
I did have some fun watching the hopelessly cute Ophelia Lovibond (best name ever, from NOWHERE BOY and NO STRINGS ATTACHED) as Popper's assistant Pippi, and Gugino is as charming as she always is, but beyond that, even cute penguins only carried this mess (based on the popular novel by Richard and Florence Atwater) so far. There isn't much to say beyond how much this one missed the mark. Set in a New York that only exists in family-friendly movies, MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is certainly trying to wow us with its grandeur, while saddling us with a story that seems overblown, too cutesy, and staggeringly dull with saccharine. I expect a tiny bit more from director Mark Waters, who was somehow able to add some knowing edge to films like MEAN GIRLS, JUST LIKE HEAVEN, and THE GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST.
And then there's poor Jim Carrey at the center, working his ass off trying to entertain in this hopelessly PG environment. There's one moment at the end of the film where he busts into a court in slow motion that is genuinely funny. Other than that, you'd be lucky to go five minutes straight with a smirk on your face. I saved most of my bile for the penguins themselves, who don't actually do anything in the course of the film to make us love, or even like, them. I don't have anything against penguins, but this lot didn't inspire me to want to care about them in the slightest. I get frustrated with films where adults act like idiots, children act like adults (apparently all kids do is storm out of one room and into another), and animals act like animals, and MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS has all three. This movie blows ice chunks.
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