Movie ReviewsRating: 3 of 5 yaps

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is critic-proof. That’s not to say it is flawless. It simply puts critics like me in a sticky situation.

If I wax philosophic about the history and value of animal comedies like this one, or if I pan the film, I will come across as a pretentious snob. And if I appreciate the movie for its warm, fuzzy sentiments, I will seem like a softhearted wimp.

Lastly, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is difficult to analyze — or resist — because there is simply something inherently entertaining about a man inheriting six Gentoo penguins (the predicament of Jim Carrey’s character).

Thankfully, there is a little more to the film than meets the eye. Beneath its cutesy surface lies a poignant parable for parenting. (Get used to the P-word alliteration; there is a lot of it in the film.) What the film lacks in imagination, it makes up for with heart.

The film begins with Tom Popper as a child, awaiting his father who is an explorer of sorts. Cut to 30 years later. Popper (Carrey) is a slick, fast-talking real estate investor (far from the poor house painter in the children’s book upon which the film is based). When Popper’s long-lost father dies, he leaves him with … you guessed it…six penguins.

Popper is desperate to get rid of the penguins … that is, until his children fall in love with them. Then, he transforms his swanky New York apartment into a slippery winter wonderland. So, Popper is a reflection of Carrey in the sense that he is forced into juvenile behavior for the sake of a child audience.

This brings me to the real joy of the film — watching Popper relive the magic of parenting as he cares for the penguins. A particularly heartfelt scene finds him kneeling over a penguin egg, anxiously waiting for it to hatch — as anxious as he probably was before his children were born.

Scenes like this are touching, and Carrey’s acting is tender. But the central concept of the film is so quirky, it’s a shame that director Mark Waters (“The House of Yes,” “Mean Girls”) and the screenwriters (Sean Anders, John Morris and Jared Stern) didn’t have more fun with it. Instead of tame, family-friendly humor, I wanted a film thick with the atmosphere of a madcap B-movie. The closest the film comes to that is a sequence during which the penguins slide down the circular ramp of the Guggenheim Museum.

Oddly enough, Waters and the screenwriters choose not to stray too far from reality. Much of their attention is paid to creating plausible justifications for the story’s wacky scenarios. Since when did filmmakers become such anti-escapists? Since “The Dark Knight” grounded Batman in gritty reality — and garnered critical acclaim for doing so? Even Carrey tones down his cartoonish style in the film.

Although I wish the film had loosened up a little bit, I still enjoyed it. If I were seven years old — or the parent of a child that age — I would have enjoyed it even more.

There, I wrote a review of the film. I guess it’s not critic-proof after all. So, did I come across as a pretentious snob or a softhearted wimp? You be the judge. See, it’s not as easy as it looks, right? Right?

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25 Responses to “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”

  1. IndyMom says:

    I really do not like Jim Carey and did not want to see this movie but took the kids anyhow. He was actually pretty decent in this movie and the kids LOVED it.

  2. sarah says:

    If you like Jim Carey it is worth the movie. The penguins were the cutest. This is a happy ending movie

  3. Cindy says:

    Wanting to take my grandson. He loves penguins and I love Jim Carey

  4. J.C.K. says:


  5. Brandy says:

    My kids love to go to the movies, but I always read them the book before seeing the movie when possible. This movie had few snipets from the book. I thought I was going to hate it. Not a huge Jim fan, but it was surprising much better than I had thought it would be. My kids loved it. . .even more than Cars 2!!!

  6. Jenny says:

    I happen to like family-friendly & humorous movies. I’ll be going to this one! It seems hilarious and warm. That’s refreshing entertainment and I feel good afterwards!

  7. Bliss says:

    Enjoyed the review Sam! I don’t think you came across as particularly snobbish or wimpish.

    I am glad to hear that there is a kid’s film that’s more heartwarming than toned down action flick for the young set.

    We really enjoy the book. Obviously the story line strays quite a bit from the book, but should still be fun.

  8. sandi mojzuk says:

    I love Penguins, they look so much like nuns. I like nuns too, ya know, they look like penguins. Don’t ya love the way they walk? The Penguins, that is. Is this a little Hanky Panky on my part. So I get Carreyd away….

  9. I would like to see this movie, it looks cute and funny.

  10. Jake B says:

    Thinking bout going to see this next week, read the book in elementary school looks funny

  11. Holly says:

    I’ve been waiting for Mr. P’s Penguins. My friend’s son Henry plays young Tommy Popper in the first scene. He was so adorable, but I think I would have enjoyed the film anyways. I can’t wait until my daughter is old enough to like this. She’s one, so it will be a few years:)

  12. larry glowner says:

    I love Jim Carrey but will wait for the dvd

  13. I’m not a big Jim Carrey fan but I think I will pay to see this one my son think this will be a go movie for him and me to see.

  14. Jalise says:

    I can’t wait to see this movie. I love Jim Carrey. I hope it is put together well with the story line, by the previews it seems funny and a good movie for kids to see. I will be taking my family.

  15. Ellen says:

    I am so excited about seeing this movie after seeing the preview! I know that my two Grandaughters would love it! I am a huge fan of Jim Carrey, and this looks really good
    and very intertaining. My husband also likes these kind of movies. He is a big kid at heart………

  16. Angi B says:

    Love Jim Carrey, but I think this is not a movie I will probably watch.

  17. lisa hundley says:

    i’m sorry but i have to agree with jason. this movie does not interest me in the slightest, and i think jim carey needs to wait for a good script next time. i love his earlier movies, but some of these recent ones have sucked! except for yes man, i really liked that one.

  18. I love Jim Carrey and I can’t wait to see this movie..

  19. Jason Da Damaja says:

    So not excited about seeing this movie and I actually like kiddy movies. Just think Jim Carrey has hit rockbottom. He is not in demand anymore and has to take whatever he can get. Crazy how careers change. Hopefully he can bounce back with a winner, but this is one huge speed bump that can truly prove to be deadly.

  20. Melanie says:

    I am so excited about seeing this movie after seeing the preview! My daughter’s nickname is Penguin and this is going to be a must see for us! I am not a huge fan of Jim Carrey, but this looks really good.

  21. Pat says:

    Im really looking forward to seeing this, Im sure my grandson will like it.

  22. Tracy C. says:

    My daughters really want to see this movie. I look forward to seeing it since it’s real people and real penguins.

  23. Kristen says:

    I have heard awesome things about this movie and will be taking my little one to see it this week! He loves penguins and spends lots of time looking at them whenever we visit the Newport Aquarium or the Zoo!

  24. Dolores says:

    I hadn’t planned on going to see this one. Thought I’d wait for the DVD release. But after reading this, maybe I’ll give it a shot.

  25. Lance says:

    I have a healthy adoration for penguins and I think that this is the kind of comedy that Jim Carey has become very comfortable with (Bruce Almighty, Fun with Dick and Jane, Horton Hears a Who,etc.) so I feel that this movie would be entertaining at the least for
    those reasons alone. I haven’t seen this film yep but I do hope that my prediction is right because I am pretty interested in checking this out. Thanks for the review!