Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Opens locally Friday, June 17th, 2011
Run Time, 1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG
Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury
Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past)
OK, "Mr. Popper's Penguins" is a train wreck, and not the cool, exciting kind like in "Super 8." It is excruciatingly painful to sit through, and I don't care if it's meant for kids. If you love your children, take them elsewhere. Anywhere.
Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh, but so-called "family-friendly" kids movies are tricky business for us movie critics. Arguably kids will watch anything you put in front of them, explaining the success of crap like Teletubbies or C-Span. If kids (and some adults) will laugh at anything, then how do you decipher a bad film from a good one? If "kid-friendly" films like Mr. Popper are bound to make millions on opening weekend, then why even bother warning you not to go see it with your children? I find it's my civic duty to enlighten my fellow man, in hopes that you will save future generations from mindless crap...it's what keeps me breathing.
So on to some of the necessary items. Some history? "Mr. Popper's Penguins" is based on a children's book of the same name released over 70 years ago. Plot? The film version basically has Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey...more on him in a bit), a smooth-talking lawyer, getting stuck in a situation that requires him to raise and care for 6 computer-generated penguins. Ha! You thought they'd use real penguins? I'm sure they do in a few spots, like when one called Nimrod runs himself into a wall, or another one hang-glides to safety...hmm, those might have been animated...
The fabulous Jim Carrey tries to infuse his brand of comedy into the zany circumstance of the film, but nothing works. He even pulls out his Jimmy Stewart impression mid-film, an impression that any Carrey fan has seen hundreds of times on talk shows and Saturday Night Live over the years. It may have been his cry for help, his mid-film "safe word" that let his true fans know that he isn't responsible for the crap going on around him. Mr. Carrey, whom I love and adore, I won't hold "Mr. Popper's Penguins" against you...but you only get one.
To justify my cruel tone, the movie fails in every conceivable way. From the loony premise of the film, to the totally ineffective father/son thread woven throughout. Oh yah, and it's not inventive or funny. It has multiple scenes of flatulence (that's farts, people), and kicks to the groin. The penguins' names give-away just how lacking in creativity this film really is: We have Captain (the leader!), Bitey (he bites!), Loudy (he's...oh you get the point, and yes these are their actual names...), Stinky, Lovey and Nimrod. These uninspired penguins and lazy script results in a throw-away, straight-to-video-quality bomb, and I'm not sure of a better way to state it.
I remember back in the day reading about an actual protest of the film "Batman Returns" by some penguin-activist group, who had taken offense to how penguins were portrayed in the film with the villainous, The Penguin, character. Mr. Popper had me wondering if this group was still around, and what their reaction would be.
So penguin-lover or not, do yourself and your children a favor and paint the garage this weekend. If you have to go see a movie, hold out hope for Cars 2, opening next week, and take a pass on this ice-cold, flightless dud.
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