Before I begin, let me say this: I like Jim Carrey. I really do. In fact, I watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective back when I was a kid, and I still find it funny today. But, as with most actors and comedians, there is that little thing called shtick. Don't we all see a pattern when we see those familiar faces on the screen? In fact, it seems to generate the same kind of reaction: We become endeared to it at first, but then it gets real by the time the fourth or fifth movie rolls around. Will Ferrel, Adam Sandler and even Carey himself, are all the biggest 'offenders,' so to speak, in this day and age. But, for the sake of this interview, let's focus on the latter, and how this movie relates to his 'shtick.' The movie in question, if it wasn't obvious already, is Carey's latest venture, Mr. Popper's Penguins. Based loosely—the key word being 'loosely'—on the 1938 novel by Richard and Florence Atwater, "Penguins" tells the story of a work-obsessed businessman named Tom Popper, whose life is turned upside down when he inherits six penguins from his late explorer father. As is wont, his cold heart begins to melt by means of the flightless, cold-loving birds. In the meanwhile, he tries to evade suspicions of his bosses, a respected entrepreneur, and a brown-nosing zoo keeper while also rekindling his relationship with his estranged ex-wife and kids. And, yes, that's the plot in a nutshell. But, does that mean it's as mind-numbing as it sounds? No, my friends. It's not as bad as it seems.
First off, let's get the downside out of the way. The plot is thoroughly and shamelessly predictable. It is riddled with so many clichés, that I could sit there, predict every turn the movie was going to take and be right. Also, I sat there and counted six—yes, six—poop or fart jokes. There may have been a couple that I missed during a bathroom break, but I'm sure there were a couple more that I could have counted. I blush to admit it, but I do laugh at potty humor, but only when I don't expect it or it makes the movie actually funny. Again, predictability killed the mood for me.
However, for all its faults, it's more charming than repulsive. Carrey, though he is relying on his standard, over the top shtick, is not overshadowing those adorable penguins. But, aside from Carrey, his six co-stars, and his estranged family, there are two saving graces for this movie. Mr. Popper's secretary, Pippi (played by British actress Ophelia Lovibond) is a prim little poppet with a penchant for alliterating all her sentences with any and every word beginning with the letter P. She does grate a little bit, but she is still quite adorable. The other actress to show her face here is the great Angela Lansbury, who plays the owner of a restaurant that Popper used to eat at with his late father. It is so refreshing to see this woman on the silver screen again, especially for a girl who grew up with the likes of Beauty and the Beast and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (There's alliteration there, too, eh? Oh, darn this movie!). She still retains that grace and charm through all the forced dialogue and situations, and I applaud her for that.
Overall, my feelings for this movie can best be summed up by its summary on RottenTomatoes.com: "Bland, inoffensive, and thoroughly predictable, Mr. Popper's Penguins could have been worse
but it should have been better." But for all its faults, its charming, fun and completely harmless. It's probably best for kids, but animal lovers will love the cuddly penguins, and Carrey fans will like seeing their idol on screen. Give it a shot and decide for yourselves.