Friday, June 17, 2011

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS: The Film Babble Blog Review

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS (Dir. Mark Waters, 2011)

Isn't Jim Carrey too old to be doing this kind of movie?

A decade ago it seemed like Carrey was moving towards a more thoughtful phase in his career based on work based on work in such fine films as THE TRUMAN SHOW, MAN ON THE MOON, and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. However at the same time the man still had, and still has, a fondness for doing broad commercial crap, which is exactly what MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is.

In what must be screenwriting leading man character archetype #1, Carrey plays a divorced corporate big wig, who loves his kids (also still loves his ex-wife), but is too business-minded to be in touch with his soul. So a crate coming from his recently deceased globe-trotting father containing a penguin in it will, of course, melt his cold heart, right?

Carrey comically protests the penguin and calls everyone he can think of (Antarctica, animal control, the zoo, etc.), but then another crate containing more penguins arrives, and his kids (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell 
Perry Cotton) love them so the put-upon protagonist makes his Park Avenue pad into a winter wonderland.

Carrey's shtick is always giving everybody hip snappy nicknames as he glides though films, so it comes in handy naming the penguins: Captain, Lovey, Bitey, Nimrod, Stinky and Loudy. The birds can be fun to watch, but as a large percentage of their antics are via CGI it's more and more cringe inducing than cute.  

Angela Lansbury is in the thankless role of the potential client Carrey is trying to score for a big real estate deal, and guess what? The penguins get in the way, particularly in a silly set-piece that turns the Guggenheim into a massive seabird slide.

That's actually one of the better scenes, as the film is bogged down in schmaltz and poop jokes. And I mean, a lot of poop jokes. Enough to make the "poop picnic" in JUDY MOODY seem positively understated.

Clark Gregg as the movie's villain - a creepy animal control guy who wants to take the penguins for his own supposedly evil purposes is a considerably contrived element, but in this fluffy formula he fits right in. Entourage's Carla Gugino as Carrey's ex-wife basically just shows up on time for her standard issue lines.

With it's icy subject matter, I wondered why MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS wasn't earmarked for a Christmas season release, but maybe since it's really all about the air-conditioning people seek during the heat of summer, it's probably a great marketing move.

Carrey, who's pushing 50, apparently sees himself as a post-modern Don Knotts - that is, a family friendly funny man caught in outlandishly wacky situations - and that's fine, but he's got the chops to shape his career better.

This at least proves that he's a good actor, because you've got to have talent to act like bland cash-in kid's crap like this isn't beneath you.

More later... 

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