Loosely based on Florence Atwater's 1938 children's book, Mr. Popper's Penguins never completely gels. But that doesn't stop Jim Carrey from using everything in his arsenal of comic physicality to keep his audience entertained. A Jimmy Stewart impersonation and a few Charlie Chaplin duck-walk steps go a long way.
As a boy, Tommy Popper grew up knowing his traveling businessman father more by the sound of his dad's voice during nightly radio transmissions than from spending any real time with the old man.
As an adult, Carrey's Tom Popper is an exceptionally successful real-estate developer living in a top-floor Manhattan apartment. Divorced from his wife Amanda (Carla Gugino), Tom spends every other weekend with the couple's children, Janie and Billy. Tom's career priority —becoming a partner at his company —takes a U-turn after he inherits six penguins from his recently deceased dad. Closing a deal to purchase Central Park's Tavern on the Green from Angela Lansbury's character, Mrs. Van Gundy, vies for the attention he gives to the penguins he promises to let Billy keep as a birthday present.
The penguins' individual personalities don't go much beyond representative names like "Lovey," "Bitey," and "Stinky." Still, Mr. Popper's Penguins is an adequate family film. Audiences go to a Jim Carrey movie to watch the spastic comedian make funny faces and react to outrageous situations with his trademark rubber-band physicality. You probably won't come away from the movie with any newfound appreciation for penguins, but you'll get what you came for from Carrey. Grade: B-
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