Film Review: Mr Popper's Penguins ***
(G, general release)
Based on a classic American children's story by Richard and Florence Atwater that has, up till now, eluded me, Mr Popper's Penguins presents Jim Carrey with the kind of comedic springboard he could bounce off in his sleep. Carrey looks a little wearier these days, and not so rubber-limbed or faced as in his prime, but he's still an expert clown and is pretty good in this predictable but surprisingly bearable family comedy.
Tom Popper is a slick and oily high-stakes Manhattan realtor. Tom is not a bad man, but has allowed his wheeling and dealing to take precedence over his family. As a result, he's divorced and only sees his teenage kids at weekends. But when he receives an unexpected gift from his globetrotting father, Popper's perspective begins to radically change.
Popper is on his way out the door to work one morning when a large wooden crate is delivered to his luxury apartment. It contains a frozen penguin, which once lightly defrosted springs magically to life (the science of all this does not bear close inspection). It's a parting present from his dying father, and soon five more birds turn up and Popper's life is reduced to chaos. His bosses have offered him a big promotion if he can persuade the owner (Angela Lansbury) of Central Park's Tavern on the Green to sell the restaurant, but Tom's penguins play havoc with this. Although they do prove quite the tonic when it comes to his family life.
There's nothing very earth-shattering about any of this, but Mr Popper's Penguins is slickly paced, efficiently directed by Mark Waters, and appropriately sweet in tone.
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