Jim Carrey is arguably one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood, with films he’s starred in earning a total gross of over $4 billion worldwide. Movies that involve penguins aren’t exactly bad business either; Happy Feet, the story of a dancing penguin, made nearly $200 million, and documentary March of the Penguins won the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary. So putting those two together is guaranteed to make a profit, right? Only time will tell, but it’s undeniable that is a thoroughly entertaining albeit ‘by the books’ family comedy.
After the death of his globe-trekking father, Tom Popper (or ‘Popper’ as he’s affectionately known to most) is left to care for penguins that he was given in the Last Will & Testament. After initial reluctance, he grows to love the animals, but a killjoy Zookeeper (no, not Kevin James) is hell bent on taking the animals away from Popper. On top of that, the penguins affect his work life, and with a big promotion on the horizon, can Popper juggle the struggles of family, work and penguins?
Director Mark Waters breaks away from his typical picture choice (teenage girl comedies, EG Freaky Friday, Mean Girls and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) to helm a more family focused film, and although he is more than capable, he doesn’t quite bring out enough of the zaniness that the paring of Jim Carrey and penguins could have produced. That said, the most comical scenes come from those that only feature the lead character and his pets. Whenever they aren’t on screen, this is a typical tale of a busy man who slowly appreciates his family, but that’s not a criticism; a familiar narrative will be welcomed by the target audience.
Jim Carrey is his usual rubbery faced self, and in all honesty the film wouldn’t be anywhere near as enjoyable with someone else in the titular role. He frequently exhibits his comedic talent that made him the funniest man of the 90’s, with one sequence even being lifted straight from Ace Ventura. The real stars here though are, obviously, the fantastically rendered CGI penguins; for the most part, it’s not visibly noticeable that the birds are computer generated. The penguins have individual ‘personalities’ that aren’t particularly original (“Lovey”, “Stinky”, “Loudy” etc) but are humorous in their own way. The leader, ‘Captain’, is the focus of a sub plot which manages to tug the heart strings whilst not being too overbearing for the younger audience members.
All in all, Mr Popper’s Penguins is good, clean fun that won’t even offend the most sensitive of people. With a strong performance from Carrey, cute penguins and a well meaning moral, it caters for all the family.