Mr. POPPER’S PENGUINS (2011)

TMG Scale 7.5    P Factor 2.0 (animals too!)
Starring Jim Carrey, Angela Lansbury, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Tambor, Captain, Stinky, Bitey, Loudey, Lovey and Nimrod

Since it is so hard to find a good,  family film these days, I had to to be a bit generous here. I don’t think many college kids or twenty somethings will find this to be a great Friday night date film. So what. That demographic has plenty to pick from. But if Mom and Dad want a fun evening out with their grade schoolers, this movie fits the bill.

It had critical faults. For one,  it took the story level from ridiculous to the totally preposterous.  It had a weird and frankly bad message that penguins might be better off in a New York apartment than in a zoo. And it  had gratuitous footage of penguins relieving themselves. The movie almost should have been called “Mr. Popper’s Pooping Penguins.”

The movies is only very loosely based upon Mr. Popper’s Penguins, children’s book written by Richard & Florence Atwater, originally published in 1938. This vastly updated film version has Tom Popper (Carey) is a divorced,  over the top real estate developer with few ethics.  He neglected his marriage and is now dangerously neglecting his children. Think of Carrey’s character as attorney Fletcher Reed in Liar Liar (1997).  Tom’s Dad was a world explorer who was never there for young Tom.  Tom resented it and seems to think he would never do the same. But Tom is committing the same errors of omission  with his own kids. On this Father’s Day weekend 2011, this is the all important message of this movie. Spend time with your kids. Career and work should come second. If you have already lost your wife to divorce, it might have been the first clue. TMG’s message to all Dad’s of young children is to go on the Internet NOW, and download Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle song and play it three or four times.  Then take your young kids to see this movie.  For this reason alone, this movie is a home run.

This all comes home to roost (literally…well actually I think penguins nest,…  whatever.) when Tom’s Dad dies and sends his last bequest in the form of a penguin. [TMG is no expert, but I believe these are Gentoo penguins from the South Pole. There are 16 different species of penguin living in the world today. Gentoo populations have suffered over the last century from human depredation and loss of habitat but appear to be stabilizing recently due to increased conservation efforts. You can learn a great deal from movies.]

Tom’s young son and daughter visit his posh, New York apartment and are smitten with the new “pets.” Tom now has to do anything to keep the penguins so as not to disappoint his children. He struggles between hiding the penguins, converting his apartment into a winter wonderland and hanging onto his real estate development job.  There is a convoluted and ginned up  subplot about Tom struggling to buy New York’s famousTavern on the Green restaurant and tear it down for new development. The connection was tenuous at best. In the interim, there were lots of funny and cute scenes. Carrey is in classic form with the double entendre  and amusing  Beatles song references. In trying to pitch a deal he implores “picture yourself on a boat on a river,  with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.”  Later, the penguins march across a street crossing a la Abbey Road.  It was subtle,  but anyone over 50 would find it hilarious.

I really cannot understand why we so often need to see humans urinating, defecating or animals doing the same in films. Even penguins are not cute doing the bird squirt thing.  It’s a cheap and uneasy laugh at best. When it is overdone it is just gross. But overall the films is entertaining, fun, funny and has mostly good messages about family and paying attention to your kids. But kids take note, don’t ask for a penguin on your next birthday. My brother, Eddie tried to mail order a raccoon onetime for a pet. It’s not a good idea. Enjoy this film though.

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