Mr Popper's Penguins review

Penguins + Carrey = box office. That’s the simple but undoubtedly correct mathematical equation 20th Century Fox has come up with for this summer’s family-friendly comedy. Largely predictable, this is nevertheless watchable stuff for both children and adults.

Tom Popper (Carrey) is a top realtor (that’s American for property agent, English people), the golden boy of his company and on the verge of making partner. One of the reasons he’s so good is that he’s divorced and as he only sees his children at the weekend, has plenty of time to schmooze his clients. As we see in a neatly told pre-credit sequence, Popper (as he’s known to one and all, even his kids) rarely saw his own father as a child as Popper Snr (Poppa Popper? Papa Popper? You get the idea) was off travelling the world looking for rare animals.

With the trusty absent father complex firmly in place, Popper receives news of his father’s death with equanimity and then confusion as he inherits a penguin. A live penguin, in a refrigerated box, delivered to his swish New York apartment. Popper is perplexed and even more so when five more arrive shortly afterwards – with hilarious consequences. He tries to get the zoo to take them away, but the kids think he’s bought them for him, he becomes attached especially when they start laying eggs, life lessons are learnt, and so on and so forth. There’s a sub-plot about Popper having to buy an old restaurant from Mrs Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury) which kids will find boring and adults won’t care about. Because in the end the question was always going to be this: is it funny?

Somewhat surprisingly, Mr Popper’s Penguins is sporadically amusing. The script is above average and there are a few decent one-liners. Popper’s assistant Pippi (Lovibond) speaks almost entirely using words beginning with ‘p’ which is precisely as preposterous, pretentious and pitiful as it sounds and isn’t the comedy genius it wants to be but other than that it’s not at all bad. Perhaps most crucially, the penguins are incredibly cute, even if they are for the most part CGI. So while it plays up the ‘aww’ factor to a ridiculous degree, it’s hard not to be at least a little bit charmed.

Official Site
Mr Popper's Penguins at IMDb

Justin Bateman is a Screenjabber contributor

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