Mr Popper’s Penguins
I have no objection to Jim Carrey appearing in family-friendly comedies, but only if they’re funny. This one is just a spoonful of treacle, and the medicine wouldn’t go down.
In some ways, it’s like a retread of Liar Liar with Carrey as a permanently busy dad, separated from his wife and children, and having to come up with a few porkies to cover his ass. For reasons too complicated to explain, he inherits half a dozen penguins from his explorer dad who was never home. This causes a problem, as it would in any household, but for Mr Popper (Carrey’s character), matters are exacerbated by the fact that he is obsessively house proud and wedded to his work (buying up properties so as to develop them – a kind of Gordon Gekko without the charisma).
The plot that ensues is insultingly routine; the ex-wife has a disposable boyfriend who is inevitably disposed of. There’s a cute kid (boy) who just luuurrves the pengies, and a mildly stroppy teenage daughter who soon also is a penguinphiiac. There are some desultory issues with a doorman who has to be bribed to turn a blind eye, a fellow tenant trying to prove there are birds on the premises, and Angela Lansbury as a not very sharp battle axe, whose Tavern On the Green in Central Park is Popper’s current target.
The children in the cinema laughed dutifully at the penguin poo jokes, and Carrey tries to make more of the script than is available by slinging in the occasional Jimmy Stewart impersonation, or any other business he can manufacture to generate some heat in this ice cold film (and I don’t just mean the snow), but it’s a task beyond even his manic abilities (and why is he looking so thin?). The film will please a few undemanding souls in the school holidays, and the penguins themselves (clearly CGI creatures) have a certain appeal, but even that wears off under the unrelenting barrage of sentimentality and cliche.