By MARK TURNER
I’ve never been a big fan of Jim Carrey. It didn’t start out that way. When he was on IN LIVING COLOR and in THE MASK, I thought he was hilarious. But then something happened that always seems to be the way of stand-up comedians. Folks tell them they’re funny all the time, that even them taking a breath is funny. And that’s when they stop actually being funny.
They continue to do their shtick non-stop but the originality that was there is no longer funny. Carrey fell into that category by always seeming to be on, even when doing talk shows and hosting shows.
This brings us to his most recent film, MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS. Based on the acclaimed children’s book, it tells the story of a man who values his job more than anything. Thomas Popper grew up listening to his father on a ham radio, telling him tales of his adventures around the world. But he was rarely there in person. Popper has grown into a man with this same trait.
Popper is a closer for a real estate company, the best there is and about to be made a partner. All he needs to do is close on the Tavern on the Green property in Central Park. As this is about to go down he received a call from his father’s lawyer. His father has passed away and left him something, an item to be delivered. When the item arrives Popper opens it to find a frozen penguin. Not until he takes it from the box and it thaws does he realize it’s still alive.
A bucket of ice in the tub and a locked door and he’s off to work never realizing the fatal flaw there until he comes home to find his bathroom flooded. Looking for where the penguin came from he calls and asks them to take it back, failing to communicate over a static filled phone and a language barrier that results in more penguins arriving.
As if that wasn’t enough story we have Popper’s family, displaced since his divorce. His son Billy is still young enough to not see problems with his father but Janie is at that tough teen time when everything is a crisis. Even with a touch of advice from his ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) he seems to fail with his daughter. When the kids show for their weekend with him, they’re delighted to find the penguins with Billy thinking it’s his birthday present.
The scenes shift back and forth between Popper trying to acquire the property he’s after and adjusting to life with the penguins. While he first sought to send them to the zoo, he slowly grows attached to them.
When they have eggs, he’s hooked. Unfortunately it doesn’t set well with his employers. Viewing the eggs Popper remembers what is important to him, his children and family. So what’s the solution?
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS is a feel good movie. It tosses aside all sense of logic and reality in the hopes of offering laughs and touching moments. Forget the fact that Popper opens the doors to his exclusive penthouse and fills it with snow. Or that he might toss aside the major career that enables him to do the things he does here. I’m all for suspending reality but some times it goes a bit far.
That being said the penguins are hilarious and adorable. Who wouldn’t want to have them in their home? The kids love them and it is through them that Popper finds himself. A misplaced letter from his father that was attached to the first box helps him to find his way.
So back to Jim Carrey. He does a great job here. He plays for a few laughs along the way and keeps things somewhat subtle. Until the last 10-15 minutes when it seems he goes completely out of control and does the shtick all over again. Here we are 17 years since ACE VENTURA and THE MASK and he still mugs for the camera. The result is another movie to add to the list of films Carrey could have made better.
But kids will enjoy the movie. They’ll love the penguins and beg to have one of their own. Carrey fans will think he’s still a comedic genius. Gugino fans will still think she’s beautiful. And life will go on. This is a movie that you’ll add to your collection for your kids more than yourself. And if they enjoy it, then its worth having.
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