Jim Carrey has this comedy down cold
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, June 17, 2011
There’s a reason Mr. Popper gets top billing over the penguins in “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” (It could just as easily, and just as alliteratively, have been called “The Penguins of Mr. Popper,” after all.) It isn’t merely the fact that that’s how authors Richard and Florence Atwater titled their 1938 book, on which the movie is very, very loosely based.
It’s because Jim Carrey, as the titular Thomas Popper, steals the show from his avian co-stars, a flock of CGI penguins who are strenuously adorable in the way that only CGI penguins can be.
Carrey, who is something of a CGI peacock himself, is the best thing about the film, which should delight young audiences even as it diverts their adult handlers. The movie is the very dictionary definition of “cute” (which, as a formal classification, places it just above “not bad” yet somewhat south of “hilarious”). The laughs — many of which have to do with a chronically flatulent penguin named Stinky, the production of plentiful amounts of penguin poop and a character named Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond), whose entire dialogue revolves around words beginning with the letter P — come at frequent and reliable intervals.
Carrey is responsible for most of them. But then again, he’s also something of an acquired taste.
Playing a slick Manhattan real estate developer who reluctantly comes into possession of six Gentoo penguins, the actor uses his gift for physical comedy and funny voices to propel this gentle comedy forward toward its sweet if slightly familiar message about the importance of family over career advancement.
A divorced dad who shares custody of his kids with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino), Popper decides to keep the penguins only after his son (Maxwell Perry Cotton) and daughter (Madeline Carroll) — whom he has always previously let down — beg him not to send them back. Grown-ups will see where this is going.
But before it gets there, what follows is a series of antic misadventures involving penguins’ need for cold temperatures — Popper essentially turning his apartment into a giant walk-in freezer — and the birds’ propensity for imprinting with a parental figure, regardless of species. Brace yourself. During the movie’s awww-inducing conclusion, those of you who are allergic to cuteness — or to Jim Carrey — might want to look away.
All others, especially those who enjoyed the penguin-themed “Surf’s Up,” “Happy Feet” or even “March of the Penguins,” should get a kick out of “Popper,” if not for the goofball birds themselves, then for their even more endearing human counterpart.
Contains some rude, mostly bathroom-oriented humor and one Viagra joke.