Mr. Popper’s Review

For the Penguin Post

By  Keshaunta Moton

I admire any movie that can make a grown man cry. Okay truth time here, there’s a special place reserved in my heart for anything that can make a grown man cry. Positively sadistic of me, yes, and totally explains why I’m still single, but there it is. So when, while watching Mr. Popper’s Penguins, I looked over and saw the single tear rolling down my grown cousin’s face, my enjoyment of Jim Carrey’s latest attempt at family humor increased exponentially. But my sick pleasures aside, there is much here for sane and fully developed people to enjoy. With genuine heart, doused in humor, and with the stylings of Mr. Carrey, Penguins is a solid family film that will please adults, children, and weirdos like me alike.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins stars Jim Carrey as the aforementioned Mr. Popper, a crafty and sly businessman whose success at his job has come at the expense of his family life. Divorced, with an ex-wife who’s dating again and two children who he constantly disappoints, Mr. Popper has built a dangerous replication of his own family life with an absentee father. But just when you think that Popper is dooming his own kids to a similar fate, an intervention comes when Senior Popper dies, leaving his son his prized possessions of six penguins with whom the little Poppers immediately fall in love with. At first in over his head with how to care for the little invaders, Popper begins to open up to his makeshift friends and finally learns how to be a family.

Before walking into the theater I was fully prepared to hate this movie, the premise alone sounds impossible and silly beyond belief, not to mention the trailers which prepared me for a corn fest hour and a half of Jim Carrey whacking out and making awkward faces to the camera. But much to my surprise, and delight,Penguins turned out to be a funny and nuanced look at a man desperately in need of a wake up call. This is a great movie about love, second chances, and finally figuring out what’s important to you. Based on the book of the same name, Mr. Popper’s Penguins has a whimsical quality that lends a bit of magic and timelessness to the script and it is exciting to behold.

The highlight of Mr. Popper’s Penguins is hands down Jim Carrey and his portrayal of the titular Mr. Popper. Sure there are cute animals, and adorable kids that should not be forgotten but this film’s greatest strength lies in the impassioned Mr. Popper. Charismatic beyond belief, committed fully to this role, Carrey sells this improbable premise to the audience. Part of this success is due to the wonderful development of Mr. Popper as a character. There is a great back story here about young Tommy Popper and his relationship with his estranged father that provides an intense underlying drive to the story. This develops believably into the present where Popper is a flawed but sensational character. This is where Carrey picks up entreating, wacky, and vulnerable in this role, selling the outrageous as very few can.

Along with Carey, Mr. Popper’s Penguins stars Carla Gugino as Amanda, Popper’s ex-wife and new love interest. Angela Lansbury plays Mrs. Van Gundy the owner of a local landmark restaurant that Popper’s company is trying to acquire and demolish. Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton star as Janie and Billy Popper. The film also stars Ophelia Lovibond, Clark Gregg, Jeffrey Tambor and Phillip Baker Hall. On par for children’s film these days, Mr. Popper’s Penguins dips into the bathroom humor. Gratefully this isn’t used too heavily, but still far more than I would have liked, although kids will enjoy it.

And now for the bad, I’m just nitpicking when I say that I don’t think that you can freeze a penguin. So when Mr. Popper receives a life-size penguin popsickle handily frozen I found this a little more than distracting. And I’m actually only writing it now because I resent that I’ll probably never be able to freeze a penguin. Sure it’s whimsical and silly, not to mention an easy plot device (“How’s he getting the penguin?” “Oh just freeze it”) but it took me out of the moment in a way that I don’t appreciate. Secondly, I found Senior Popper’s final words to his son a little bit of a let down; I was expecting extra special and it just didn’t happen.

Overall, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a great film for families. While Penguins is by no means of the caliber of Jim Carrey’s finest work, it is still a solid family film that does the actor justice. Kids will enjoy it, parents will too. For singles without kids there’s really no need to go out and see this, although if you find yourself trapped in a movie theater for a couple hours it’s a good way to pass the time.

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