Perhaps partly preposterous, Popper’s Penguins principally pleases parents plus progeny proportionately.
Jim Carrey has proven a versatility over the last decade that his earlier rubber-faced performances never would have revealed. Finding drama in the comedy has proven to be something of Carrey’s forte, although with Mr. Popper’s Penguins he goes against the age-old saying of never working with children or animals by doing both in this adaptation of the classic children’s novel.
Tom Popper has grown from an enthusiastic youngster (Dylan Clark Marshall) to a cynical real estate broker (Carrey), with his adventurer father’s absence throughout his childhood still playing on his mind. When Mr Popper senior passes away on another of his exotic trips, he leaves Tom with a parting present in the form of a lone penguin to keep as a pet. Attempting to return the flightless bird, he inadvertently adds five more to his brood, with his New York apartment quickly thrown into chaos. Juggling a professional promotion opportunity predicated upon procuring a Central Park restaurant that holds sentimental value, and the demands on his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and two children (Madeline Carroll), the younger Mr Popper is at first reluctant to bond with his new charges, but soon learns the value of keeping an open mind.
Global warming and human intervention may eventually put a limit on the variety of available human-critter comedy duos. The human counterparts in recent memory, from Jason Lee (Alvin and the Chipmunks) to James Marsden (Hop) have played second fiddle to the cuddly creatures and at a cost to the picture. Few personalities outside of Jim Carrey can exude a buoyancy quite as bright as the rubber-faced actor, having repeatedly proven that he is capable of a comedic and dramatic range beyond his contemporaries, although it is his comedy capers that he is principally prized for. So if anybody can upstage a group of prancing penguins it is Carey, having thrice demonstrated his ability to work with animals in two Ace Ventura movies and Bruce Almighty. A group of six sphenisciformes are not too much of an acting challenge, being far less huggable than a kitten for example. Yet the human propensity to endow anthropomorphic charms to the oblivious flightless birds, as heard in Morgan Freeman’s soothing tones in March of the Penguins, ensures that Mr. Popper’s Penguins will make a targeted assault on your heartstrings.
Following the playbook to the letter, a broken family and a slick business man are ultimately healed and reunited, schooled by the lessons of love that the penguins have to offer. It is a lesson reminiscent of the one Carrey has already learned in Liar Liar, and will no doubt reaffirm the belief of the prominent family groups across America that the only true path to happiness is through a heterosexual partnership and two clean-cut children. Yet if you take the other tried and true path to happiness, and that’s going with the flow of this inoffensive family feature. The plot may follow a predictable path, but the journey is a pleasant one with enough moments of levity and a capable supporting cast. Even the children aren’t the usual variety of mop-headed clones that tend to get dragged out. You will know where this is going, but the little ones will enjoy it well enough. Just be prepared for them to want a penguin as a pet by the time the credits roll.
Mr Popper’s Penguns was released on June 30, 2011 in Australia by 20th Century Fox.