November 24, 2017

Movie Review: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Hollywood has certainly modernized the 1938 children’s book written by Richard and Florence Atwater, making Mr. Popper on film a savvy businessman with intimacy issues rather than a poor house painter stricken with wanderlust.  Instead of having a wife and kids who balk at his eccentricities, the movie wife and kids still don’t get him, but a divorce and strained relationship with all of them is the result of it.  His children even call him “Popper” to show their detachment.  Modern touches make the movie current too; there are smart phones, text message coding (OMG!) and the main setting of the film takes place in Mr. Popper’s architecturally chic apartment. Yet the story is still the same: Popper goes through the motions of life and never really lives, or feels, until the penguins come into it.


Jim Carrey as Popper references Jimmy Stewart early on in the film, which obviously got me drawing comparisons to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Where an angel shows Stewart his value to his family and community, it’s the penguins that reflect Popper’s humanity and his importance to those who only want to love him.


Despite having funny man Carrey starring in it, the laughs in Popper’s Penguins come mostly from the penguins, which are supposedly real with partial computer-animated effects. The penguin pranks and poop parts went a long way in making the 4 boys at my son’s 9th birthday party laugh, and the rest of our younger kids liked it too.


Popper’s perpetually “P” pronouncing assistant, Pippa, was annoying and Angela Lansbury’s part as the owner of New York’s famed “Tavern on the Green” didn’t add much either.


At times the movie reminded me of Mrs. Doubtfire, when Robin Williams uses his disguise to ingratiate himself back into his ex-wife’s heart.  In this case, Popper uses the penguins to show his family that he’s not as career obsessed as they think.  Along the way, we actually get to see him give up the act and genuinely transform into a better person.


It was a good movie. A little slow in parts, but I’m glad the superficial references to their divorce and to his business dealings didn’t go any deeper.  I recommend this film for kids of all popper's penguins


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