Mr. Popper's Penguins is loosely based on the classic 1938 novel of the same name by authors Richard and Florence Atwater. The film changes a few things, most notably the background and present day status of its lead character, Tommy Popper (Jim Carrey). In Mr. Popper's Penguins, Tommy is one of the top real estate developers in New York City -- a man so filled with success that it cost him his marriage to Amanda (Carla Gugino), who has taken custody of his two children.
When it seems as if Mr. Popper has used his last excuse towards spending time with his children, a package arrives from his recently deceased father. Fresh from Antarctica, it's a barrel full of penguins. Immediately Popper wants to get rid of the "pests," as he calls them, only to find an instant connection with his kids when they arrive and discover an apartment full of cuddly penguins. There's no way Popper will get rid of those creatures now!
Jim Carrey commands the screen in Mr. Popper's Penguins. His interaction not only with the live actors, but the real and CGI penguins, is impeccable and classic Carrey. Parts of his performance hail to a certain Pet Detective, and there's a bit of Liar Liar tossed in for good measure. But his showmanship in Mr. Popper's Penguins is fresh, fun and families will treasure his turn as a father balancing work, family and ballistic birds that send his life into new and pleasantly surprising places.
The supporting cast is fine, Gugino is always terrific, but her character is in many ways background to the manic mayhem of Carrey and his penguins. A standout in Mr. Popper's Penguins is the legendary Angela Lansbury. The TV, stage and screen icon has the unruly task of going toe-to-toe with Carrey's character as the owner of an establishment that his real estate developer is seeking to take over. She is brilliant, but when isn't she?
And we would be remiss to not mention the delightful turn of actress Ophelia Lovibond as Popper's assistant, Pippi, who spends most of the film talking in alliterations, all beginning with the letter "P" -- hysterical, to say the least.
When it comes to family films, Mr. Popper's Penguins hits a home run. Children will adore the story and parents will find plenty to adore as well. Yes, there are a few too many poop jokes, but again, this is a children's movie and in our screening, the kids hollered with each bit of flatulent funniness.
And did we mention that the penguins are too cute for words? The CGI penguins, that are rarely used, are so craftily created, it's hard to tell when the real penguins are on set and when a computer has produced them. If you are not already a penguin fanatic, by the closing credits of Mr. Popper's Penguins, look to be an individual who is all about the penguins.
Out of five stars…
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