- Movie Rating -

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011)

| June 21, 2011

I’m not kidding, I wanted to leave Mr. Popper and his annoying penguins within the first 15 minutes of their movie adventure.  This movie is an irritating experience, and I’m not saying that because I stand outside of it’s demographic, this is a fundamentally misguided exercise that will bore and frustrate your average 7-year-old.  You can imagine the irritation it caused this 39 year-old.

Going in, I knew there was some promise.  The film stars Jim Carrey who, at his best, can usually liven even the most irritating bit of dead weight.  The story is based on a 73 year-old children’s book that I recall reading in kindergarten.  I don’t remember much about it, only that I enjoyed it.  The movie failed on both counts.

What we have here is a movie in which the producers are hoping that the presence of Carrey will be entertainment enough and that the presence of penguins will give the movie some cuteness.  After the success of Happy Feet and March of the Penguins it is obvious that the filmmakers are hoping that they can ride this trend train right into the next hit for the family market.  It fails.  It fails as a comedy.  It fails as an animal picture.  It fails as a Jim Carrey vehicle.  It is a movie that you just want to go away.

The story has Carrey accidentally inheriting a bunch of penguins and then trying to get rid of them.  He gets the penguins through a mix up with a guy from the shipping department who doesn’t understand English very well.  Ho-HO!  But he comes to love the penguins for their cutesy charm.  I didn’t see the charm.  I just saw penguins who make an awful sound before doing stunts provided by the special effect department.

The story takes place in the real world but contains elements that might have worked better if the movie were animated.  It might give some sanction to the bizarre sight of Carrey turning his New York high rise apartment into an ice rink.  Or it might give some comic zeal to his secretary Pippi Peponopolis (Ophelia Lovibond) whose vocabulary is made up of words beginning with the letter “P”.  And it might give some credence to the site of the penguins imitating Charlie Chapin.  As it is, in the real world where flesh and blood and gravity are in play, these things come off as just plain weird.

I really have little else to say here.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins isn’t funny.  You won’t enjoy it and neither will your kids.  At the top is the fact that the movie is bright and colorful.  At the bottom is the fact that the penguins are irritating.  When they squawk (and they do this a lot) they make the kind of loud barking noise that has you covering your ears.  They do this a lot and it’s not pleasant.

Here’s something more interesting: I saw this movie early on a Tuesday morning in a theater that contained myself, an elderly couple, two younger couples each with a child, and a mother with at least five kids.  Outside was a thunder storm so violent that it killed the power at least five times during the screening.  During the second black out, the elderly couple left.  The third black out relieved the theater of the mother and her kids.  The younger couples left at different times until the theater was just me, the darkness and Mr. Poppers Penguins.

Determined to see this movie through I decided to remain.  After the fifth black out, there was an audible rending sound in the ceiling above me.  Suddenly water started trickling down onto the two rows in front of me.  Without a word, I got up and walked out into the lobby, retrieved the garbage can, re-entered the theater and put it down to collect the water that was now dripping from the ceiling.  When the movie ended, the manager and two associates entered the theater and shook my hand.  He saw what I had done, thanked me and offered me a free ticket to any movie I wanted.  He said that I was the only patron in this situation who dealt with it in a civilized way.  I smiled and thanked him.  Later that day I saw the Thai art film Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives and it was one of the best films I’ve seen all year.  Karma kids . . . it’s always watching.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2011) View IMDB Filed in: Kids