Mr. Popper’s Penguins Review
by Bret Dorman
If there is one thing I can not stand, its when people, especially critics, are too harsh on a kids movie for being silly and having fart jokes. I once was a kid and thought fart jokes were the greatest thing in the world. Now, I am 24, less then one month away from 25, which is a quarter of a century. And I admit, I still think fart jokes are pretty freaking great.
The Story: Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) is all business and has little time to be a good dad. Then his own dad gets him a bunch of penguins! Antics ensue, life lessons are learned, and there are plenty of fart jokes. Also, Pippi, a pretty person, pontificates perfectly.
Fart jokes, prat falls, nut shots, physical humor, and loud noises. All of those are otherwise cheap ways at getting laughs. The thing is, I don’t see these as bad things if, IF, you have good material inbetween (or is it the good material that’s the main focus and these silly/stupid things the stuff inbetween?).
Mr. Popper’s Penguins has everything mentioned above. And its all good. For the first half of this movie, Jim Carrey delivers a fantastic and fast paced super confident performance as the title character. Its actually nice to see him back in silly mode after some more serious roles. He definitely hams it up, to a point where I didn’t even care if there were penguins in the movie. I almost didn’t want them to show up, I was mesmerized by Carrey’s command of the screen.
Then, the penguins show up. Its pretty funny that the movie acknowledges how cute they can be (without going overboard) and at the same time, doesn’t shy away from showing how obnoxious they can be (honking oh so loudly).
The movie hits its normal paces as the more Popper accepts the penguins the more his kids love him and his ex-wife starts to realize how great he is and the more his job that ultimately is bad anyway, is at risk.
What makes this movie surprising though, is its turn into darkness, as Popper becomes more and more obsessed with the penguins and one specific moment that happens at the start of the third act. For a silly comedy role that started out light and breezy, Carrey delivers the same intensity to the dramatic moments as well, showing a lot of the maturity that he’s gained from some of his previous roles.
I don’t want to make it seem like Carrey is the only person doing good here. Ophelia Lovibond nails her role as the constantly alliterating personal assistant. Carla Gugino is as charming as ever. Clark Gregg gets some fun screen time as the ‘villain’. And Jeffrey Tambor gets a nice little moment at the beginning as well.
Supporting cast, cgi penguins running amok, and a super strong performance by Carrey are all reasons to enjoy this movie. In fact, if the movie and quickened up its pace in the mandatory ‘down side’ of the comedy, where things start to go bad before they get to the best, I would have said its nearly flawless.
If I had kids, I wouldn’t mind them enjoying this movie. I think its fun, silly, conventional, and Carrey recapturing some of that playful magic that made him a star to begin with. Going in expecting a terrible movie, I was surprised with how competent and efficient this movie turned out to be.
As a little side note, I saw this movie, as I do with most movies, alone. Behind me were a bunch of families/single parents with kids. In front of me was an elderly couple. Somewhat next to me, was an older Asian guy, probably mid 30’s, who was also alone. While I laughed out loud at some of the films legit verbal wit and Carrey’s comic charms, this guy seemed completely uninterested. As I slightly chuckled at some of the more ‘cute penguin’ oriented gags, this guy near me was CRACKING UP! I mean he must really love penguins or something because he was having the absolute time of his life. And not just at the funny stuff, but ANYTHING the penguins would do he would just giggle and snort and laugh away. I would HIGHLY recommend watching this movie with a somewhat older Asian man sitting near you. Its pretty awesome.
In Conclusion, I hate to compare this to some of the classics of my youth, but honestly I don’t see why people wouldn’t enjoy this movie if they had to sit through it with their kids. In fact, had this movie come out more near christmas time, seeing as its a family movie and ‘winter’ oriented in a way, I think it could have done a lot better at the box office. But when it comes time to relax pre/post holidays this year, and you’re looking for a movie to rent and enjoy, keep Mr. Popper’s Penguins in mind.
Final Grade: B+