Mr. Popper’s Penguins
dir Mark Waters
prd John Davis
scr Sean Anders, John Morris, Jared Stern
with Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Clark Gregg, David Krumholtz, Jeffrey Tambor, Philip Baker Hall, Dominic Chianese, James Tupper
release US 17.Jul.11, UK 5.Aug.11
11/US Fox 1h34
Mr Popper's Penguins
What are you looking at? Carrey and friend

gugino lansbury lovibond
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Mr Popper's Penguins Yes, this movie is just as silly as it looks, with Jim Carrey pratfalling all over the screen alongside a bunch of adorable (sometimes animated) critters. Fortunately, it's also rather good fun.

Tom Popper (Carrey) is a high-powered Manhattan developer trying to earn a partnership in his firm by buying the iconic Tavern on the Green from its elderly owner (Lansbury). Like his intrepid explorer dad, he barely keeps up with his kids (Carroll and Cotton) from his marriage to Amanda (Gugino), whom he clearly still cares for. Then his father dies and leaves him six mischievous penguins, and all of Tom's careful plans fall apart. First, the birds make a mess of his immaculately minimalist bachelor pad, then they teach him Important Life Lessons.

Yes, the recipe is here for a truly annoying film, so it's a relief that director Waters at least keeps the sentimentality under control. And even the slapstick, while often simply ridiculous, isn't quite as contrived as in the similar Chipmunks or Smurfs movies. Because that's the genre: humans interacting with animated comedy creatures. Despite efforts to blur the line between real and rendered or effects-enhanced penguins, it's not difficult to spot which is which.

Meanwhile, Carrey indulges in quite a bit of broad goofiness, but never drifts into over-the-top gurning. Some of his impressions are actually funny, as are some of the physical gags. And Waters balances this childishness with some smart visual jokes and snappy dialog. Even his assistant Pippi (Lovibond), with her penchant for peppering her patter with P's, emerges as a likeable character. Yes, these shamelessly cute penguins win us over and bring the whole movie with them.

We even find ourselves rooting for Tom and Amanda to get back together, despite the fact that she has a nice new man in her life. And the two villains of the piece (Gregg's greedy zookeeper and Krumholtz's snoopy neighbour) aren't much more than comical foils on hand to provide the illusion of tension in the formulaic plot. In other words, the film is pretty much exactly what you think it'll be, except that it's actually enjoyable to watch.

cert pg themes, some vulgarity 23.Jul.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall