Mr. Popper’s Penguins, aimed primarily at children, is one I saw with a family, not one I would have chosen to see for myself.
Even taking into account that it’s a movie for kids, and thus less likely to appeal to me, my assessment is that it’s lame from start to finish.
There are movies like Shrek and the first half of The Incredibles that succeed in being funny to young children yet also have plenty to entertain older viewers. The same decidedly cannot be said about Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Jim Carrey is in the lead, which for me is already a step in the wrong direction. I’ve mostly not been a fan of Carrey’s work. In his TV and early movie days when he was purely a comedian, I thought he epitomized the kind of comedian who is popular because he is so loud and gestures so frantically, the sort whom the masses seem to think must be funny since he’s so energetic and attention-grabbing.
I do recall liking him more than not in The Truman Show, and I thought he made a commendable effort—not wholly successful, but impressively close—to capture Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. But for the most part he doesn’t do it for me.
Carrey plays a divorced dad Manhattan real estate whiz who inherits a bunch of penguins. (In the movie it’s every bit as implausible as that sentence makes it sound.) Through a misunderstanding, his son gets the impression they are a birthday present for him.
Most of the intended humor of the film comes from these penguins taking up residence in Carrey’s apartment, and making a general nuisance of themselves. For most of the movie, Carrey is trying to get rid of them, and failing.
Carrey is supposed to be an amoral, materialistic fellow who’s lost touch with what’s really important in life (other people, especially his kids), and who desperately needs a moral epiphany. But even for a movie aimed at kids, he’s just not presented as complex enough nor evil enough for that purpose.
The CGI penguins are not even remotely realistic.
Various plot points make little or no sense. For instance, that it would really be so impossible to get rid of these penguins. (Side of the road perhaps?) Then there’s the fact that his son supposedly thinks the penguins were given to him as a gift, yet he sees nothing inconsistent, nor objectionable, about the fact that the penguins in fact live full time with his dad, in a place he only gets to visit every other weekend.
The attempted humor falls flat throughout the movie. They couldn’t even come up with a halfway funny poop joke (in a film full of poop jokes). I don’t remember as much as cracking a smile at any point.
All the characters are bland and one-dimensional, just there to fit their stereotyped role (e.g., neglected family members, nosy neighbor trying to catch him with pets, etc.). The silliest of all is possibly the man from the zoo, presented as a bad guy even though he’s right that the penguins will die if this idiot keeps them in his penthouse apartment in New York.
About the only good thing is that the message of Mr. Popper’s Penguins (about how we should focus on what really matters in life like family, and not on making more and more money) is a welcome, albeit simplistic, one. Other than that, this is a dud.