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Mr. Popper's Penguins

Updated on January 13, 2014

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Director: Mark Waters

Writers: Sean Anders, Jared Stern, John Morris, Richard Atwater, Florence Atwater

Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Madeline Carroll, Clark Gregg, Jeffrey Tambor, Maxwell Perry Cotton

Synopsis: The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and as he transforms his apartment into a winter wonderland, his professional side starts to unravel.

Based off the popular children's book by Florence and Richard Atwater.

MPAA Rating: PG for mild rude humor and some language.


Another Family Film For All To Enjoy....Hooray?

To be honest, I always have a hard time judging family films. Why you may ask? Well for starters, most of them really aren't that great, and the ones that are halfway decent happen to be extremely rare. Of course, I always have to consider who the target audience is, and that most audiences that see these types of movies aren't looking for anything resembling the works of Shakespeare. No, they're just looking for a few cheap laughs to enjoy while spending quality time with their families. Or in some cases if you don't have a family, then you're probably just looking for a movie that provides a good level of escapism to help you to relax, right? On that note, "Mr. Popper's Penguins" succeeds.

Sure, I'll be the first to admit that the story for this film isn't that great. Hell, I'm sure you've probably seen a million different versions of this type of movie before. You have a neglectful workaholic father figure, who values his job more than his family. The kids hate his guts because he rarely spends time with them, and a "know it all" wife (or in this case, ex-wife) that can seemingly say or do no wrong. Yes, I'm sure if you watched as many movies as I have, then you'd probably seen a million films like this before. Each with the same predictable boring premise where the father somehow realizes how much of a prick he is, and learns to remove the stick out of his rump to realize what's really important.

Unfortunately, I've only seen one great film to pull this off with perfection without coming off as cheesy, and that was Robin Williams' "Mrs. Doubtfire." Now, that was a great family film if I ever saw one. It had all the things that made a great family film; in spite of carrying that same boring premise that I just mentioned with the neglectful father figure. It was touching, warming, and it was genuinely funny. The characters weren't one dimensional, and even the "know it all" mother figure was vulnerable, and relatable on some level. She wasn't just some perfect woman, and the ex-husband was just some schmuck that was even lucky to be with her in the first place. No, she was portrayed as a genuine person with real problems, and the ex-husband/neglectful father figure was just too naive to see that. Sure, "Mrs. Doubtfire" provided us with great laughs, but it also carried a strong message about family and relationships that still speaks true to this day. The point is because of how well "Mrs. Doubtfire" portrayed the neglectful father figure within the family film genre, it's become sort of the measuring stick in which I grade all films of this ilk; which could be good or bad depending on how you want to look at it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "Mr. Popper's Penguins" is a bad movie, as I certainly got a few good laughs out of it. In fact, I actually liked this movie a lot if you want my honest opinion. However before I go any further, I'll briefly go over what the plot is about first, then go into further detail from there.

Based off the popular children's book by Florence and Richard Atwater, the movie serves as a more modernized adaptation of the original story. The film still follows the original story fairly well, with a few added liberties here and there, but the heart of the story is still relatively intact. Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) is a well to do businessman that's highly successful, but he's often forced to neglect his own family due to his impending work schedule. As a result, his kids generally don't like him that least his daughter doesn't anyway. However, he still tries to spend time with them every other weekend that he has them, as his ex-wife currently possesses custody of their children. Like all divorced "neglectful father figures" in movies of this ilk, Mr. Popper still harbors strong feelings for his ex-wife, yet she's currently dating some handsome guy, who barely gets enough screen time for us to ever grow to care about him. Gee, why is it that step fathers, and the guys dating the ex-wives, get no respect at all in family comedies?

To get back on topic, Mr. Popper ends up inheriting a gift from his deceased father, who was barely around when he was young as well. However unlike the situation with his kids, Popper was actually very close to his father in spite of the little time they spent together. Popper's father was a sailor of some kind, and he was forced to often travel the world without his family. Often meeting with his family again once every year or so, and he would always bring Popper presents from his travels, as they dined at their favorite restaurant; which coincidentally plays a huge part in the story.

To make a long story short, Mr. Popper ends up inheriting a penguin from his father. Then when he tries to send the penguin back, he somehow ends up with five more penguins to make his life miserable. Eventually, his kids find out about the penguins, and they instantly give their old dad a guilt trip about getting rid of them. From here, Popper reluctantly tries to make it work by keeping the penguins as pets. Unfortunately, it's easier said than done, as he's forced to bribe the doorman at the hotel that he lives in, as he's not allowed to have any pets. To make matters even more interesting, he even goes as far as to turn his apartment into a replica of the freaking north pole (not literally, but you get my point), to provide a more suitable living environment for the penguins.

Although the penguins do allow him to bond more with his family, it cuts in tragically with his work life, as he's forced to make a decision between the two in the climax of the story. I can't really say much more without giving it away, but it's fairly predictable if you watch the movie. Hell, you can probably tell what's going to happen just by watching the trailers, as all family films of this ilk are nothing if not predictable.

However as I pointed out earlier, it's not a bad film. Sure, the story isn't that great, but it does have plenty of other redeeming qualities. One, if you're just looking for a film that offers a few cheap laughs after a long day, then "Mr. Popper's Penguins" is definitely the movie for you. Or if you're just looking for a decent family comedy that you can take your kids to, without feeling bored watching it, then you'll definitely love this movie. Sure, "Mr. Popper's Penguins" does have it's flaws, but it's still one of the few family comedies out there that both kids and adults will enjoy. Although I think it would've been a helluva a lot better if they didn't show those little birds taking a dump in the movie. Yes, they actually show these birds crapping, so I wouldn't eat anything while watching this movie if your easily grossed out by potty humor.

Plus, if you like watching Jim Carrey where he makes a complete a** out of himself, then you'll definitely love his performance in this movie. Like his previous film, "Liar Liar", he starts off as anal prick, but he quickly uses his slapstick style comedy to keep audiences entertained.

Overall, I'm not disrespecting this movie by any means, as it's a fairly decent family comedy for what it is. Is it a great movie? Certainly not, but you really can't expect "Shakespeare" when grading these types of movies, so I would probably have to give this a two and a half out of four. It's a fairly decent family comedy that I'm sure the whole family will enjoy, or give you a few cheap laughs if that's what you're looking for. I just wouldn't expect too much more out of it.


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    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago


      Your welcome. I'm glad you liked the review. :) Yeah, I'm pretty much the same way with Jim Carrey myself. Although most of his films aren't always great, but he's certainly funny whenever he chooses to be. Anyways, thanks again for stopping by, as it's always a pleasure seeing you.


      Thanks Cogerson. I'm glad I could help. Well if your daughter loves penguins, then she'll definitely come to love this movie then. You should try to see if you can rent "March of the Penguins" for her sometime. I don't know if she watches documentaries or not, but it's a great documentary about Penguins and their mating cycles. Don't worry, it's not as graphic as it sounds, but it's a great movie. Anyways, thanks again for stopping by. :)

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      Nice review Steve, it sounds like it might an enjoyable movie for the me and my kids to see. Not the biggest Carrey fan.....but man does my daughter like penguins....on my 2011 movie chart this movie is currently sitting at #40 after two weekends....voted up and useful.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      7 years ago from Upstate New York

      I think this is a must-see for me. I love watching Jim Carrey make an a$$ out of himself! He's such a classic comedian.

      Great review, thank you for that. I do understand how you can tire of stale plot devices, but with Jim, I think I'd end up laughing out loud, anyway.

    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      Your welcome Mr. Popo, and thanks for stopping by to read my hub on this movie. Yeah, I think with films like these, you can't really take them too seriously, or expect them to be anything more than what they actually are. Which is basically a family comedy designed to make a few people laugh, while generating a few bucks for the studios that made them. It's a fairly decent movie if you want to watch it though. I just wouldn't expect it be as great as a film like "Mrs. Doubtfire." Anyways, thanks for stopping by Mr. Popo, and I look forward to whenever you publish your hub on the 3rd star wars prequel.

    • mrpopo profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      I like the comparison you made with Mrs. Doubtfire. That was a classic movie I watched as a kid. I do like most of Jim Carrey's work but I certainly don't expect anything out of this movie and probably won't watch it in theatres. You are right though when trying to grade it as "Shakespeare" with this type of movie. It's like trying to take a movie like Zoolander seriously.

      Thanks for the review, rated up!


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