mrpopperDon't Open That Crate
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Stars: Jim Carrey, Angela Lansbury, Carla Gugino, Madeline Carroll, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Ophelia Lovibond and James Tupper 
Director: Mark Waters
Scriptwriters: Sean Anders, John Morris and Jared Stern from the book by Richard and Florence Atwater
20th Century Fox
Rating: PG for crude humor
Running Length: 98 minutes
Jim Carrey has acted with many animals and some he would rather forget.  However, in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, from the 1930’s children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater, Carrey interacts with penguins (live and animated). The mix works. If you read the book, about 50 percent is Hollywood, so don't expect an exact story, but the film version could stand on its own.
This is a story of a man whose father was never there for him, rather Dad traveled the world and communicated by short wave radio. In adulthood, Mr. Popper (Carrey) is a hotshot salesman for a top real estate company, divorced, and sees his two children, Janie and Billy (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton) every other weekend. They just call him “Popper,” which is a distant term for father. Popper having learned this lesson well from his distant father. Popper doesn't like his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) dating James Tupper, but can't do anything about it.  It is when a mysterious box arrives at his posh apartment building that things start to happen. Inside is a frozen penguin (thaws quickly) and through mis-communication, several other penguins arrive in short order. Popper learns to like the penguins, his kids think they are pets for them, the ex-wife begins to thaw and Popper’s new assignment of buying the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City starts to gel.  The owner is a witty Angela Lansbury, and you expect her to break into song at any moment. Popper’s secretary, Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond) inhabits her scenes. The villain is a zoo keeper, called in for consultation, who has his own agenda. The penguins steal the film and their antics (such as sliding down a stairwell at the Guggenheim) are laughable. Also, they like to watch old Chaplin movies on TV and try to hatch their eggs. Yes, a family can be a combination of human, bird, ice, snow and wacky neighbors.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins does have crude humor, I guess it wouldn't be a Jim Carrey movie with it, but he does keep it down here. Carrey transforms from businessman to penguin owner to father in a nice sequence, and the presence of Carla Gugino as his wife, is a stabilizing force. One would like to see them together in another film.
You wonder about the weight load on an apartment floor with snow and ice there, but then this is a bit of fantasy land. There was a sub-plot about Popper’s teenage daughter being asked to a school dance that went on and on. Popper’s apartment is sparse and dreary, as the man himself, until the penguins arrive, and then it becomes colorful. Everyone blossoms.
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner