“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is very loosely based on the classic children’s book that I loved reading when I was younger.
Jim Carrey stars as Tom Popper. When Tom was young he hardly ever spent any time with his father, who was an explorer and always off somewhere in the world. Tom is a businessman who buys and sells real estate in New York City. He works for three bosses and wants to join them as a 4th partner. But to do so he has to find a way to buy the famous “Tavern on the Green” from it’s owner (played by the wonderful Angela Lansbury). He’s also a divorced father of two kids, who he doesn’t spend much time with.
Tom receives a gift from his late father – a real penguin from the Antarctic. And then, by accident, he ends-up getting five more. When his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) and the kids meet the penguins they immediately love them and soon Tom does too. But a zoo official wants to take the penguins and so Popper and his family have to fight to keep them but not have them interfere with his job.
This is one of the best live-action family films I’ve seen in quite awhile. The story is a little predictable and formulaic, but the script is clever and the dialogue is sharp. There are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments, and they’ve been few and far between this summer. But “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” also contains some semi-serious scenes, which I wasn’t expecting. The characters are well developed and easy to care about.
Thankfully Carrey doesn’t go over-the-top in this role, limiting the slapstick to only a few scenes (which you’ve already seen in the trailers). The rest of the cast includes Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton as the kids, and Clark Gregg (“Iron Man 1 & 2”) as the zookeeper.
Both real and CGI penguins were used in the film and the effects are impressive. 2005-2007 was the real “penguin period” for family films, with the likes of “March of the Penguins”, “Madagascar”, “Happy Feet” and “Surf’s Up”. But with this film, and “Happy Feet 2”, the birds in the tuxedos made a comeback in 2011.
“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is rated PG and it’s appropriate for the entire family. Carrey says a few semi-adult words early in the film and little one’s won’t understand some of the situations but, overall, everyone – young and old – should enjoy this amusing tale.
On The Official Kid Critic Report Card, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” gets a B. It’s a nice, sweet film and even though it’s much different from the book, it does the title proud.