Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011)

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A Nietzsche quote about abysses wafted into my mind upon viewing this image but I was too terrified to recall the rest of the words. It ends on a happy note, right?

I kept thinking about Escape To Witch Mountain (the 1995 remake) while watching Mr. Popper's Penguins.  My mind meandered over because you can form unlikely connections with the most inexplicable movies when you're younger.  With that remake, I saw two kids who were ostracized for feeling different their whole lives and, on the cusp of adolescence, find out there's a missing half which finally makes them feel complete.  Going back it's a pretty lackluster film, but it at least sparked some curiosity when I was younger.

In Popper, we have a kid who listens to his dad on an old transistor radio while he is out prospecting or...something.  Aside from a photo of the two which appears to have been taken in a mine, there is very little clarity given to his father's profession other than the fact he is not there and likes talking over electronic frequencies.  So the little boy grows up disconnected and into cold real estate agents Jim Carrey or, rather, an older and less elastic Carrey reprising his standard schtick with sad energy and generating little sympathy.

Carrey has played an executive of some type in every live-action comedy he's been in for over 11 years. He's become the predictable Kevin Spacey of suit clad slapstick.

If a family treats their children to this movie and they form any sort of attachment to it, this child will be feared by animals and worshiped as their loving Satan.  It's a studied case of animal cruelty, despite the bumper at the end attempts to get one last chuckle out of the audience by noting the penguins weren't harmed, but Carrey was bitten a few times.  He also takes a soccer ball to the groin more than once,  highlighting his advancing age does not come with an ability to do physical comedy better than at his peak (his bathroom destruction rant in Liar Liar being my favorite high point).

How else but careless cruelty are we to explain the penguin delivery system, freezing the poor buggers in what appears to be dry ice, only to be unceremoniously dropped into a box and placed on Popper's doorstep?  Or the fact the only reasonable people in the entire film are the villains, who want the penguins removed from a luxury apartment complex or relocated to a zoo where they're survival is nearly guaranteed?  Then the movie has the audacity to try and make us feel bad for Carrey after his careless handling of the penguins results in the early death of one of their children.

It's one of the emptiest moments of supposed empathy in a film which thinks "cuteness" is equivalent to "blinding idiocy".  The film would have at least been passably dull if it weren't for the disgusting twists with the penguins.  Popper would have been content dealing with a blank slate for a son, text-happy daughter, and Popper's attempts to reconnect with both of them as well as his estranged wife (along the way dealing with her new hippie boyfriend, who is scared of penguins for reasons of plot contrivance).

Pity the villan who makes more sense than a hero who kills animals through quirky negligence.

There is no one for this movie to connect with.  It's appeal begins and ends with the idea of Carrey dancing around with a bunch of CGI penguins (which, to the animators credit, look credible).  But they maneuver with the intelligence of human roommates and exist in a world that teeters into the realm of fantasy while still acknowledging death is what awaits them in Mr. Popper's not so capable hands.

I still have to forgive Carrey for these trespasses.  He comes across as less someone who is trying to recapture his old glory and more a person dutifully putting in a few weeks of work for a paycheck.  Ditto for Phillip Baker Hall and Angela Lansbury, who both show up and shock the screen into remembering what charisma is just long enough to remind me they are still alive and should be using their remaining time to be far better films than Mr. Potter's Penguins.

For Carrey, if this means getting another I Love You Phillip Morris then carry on.  For Hall, Lansbury, and everyone else with the unfortunate timing to sign up for the film, I can only hope better projects are in the near-future.  For parents who drug their kids to see this, keep a close eye on your children.  If they start holding their pets a little too tightly and smiling just as sharply, you'll know where they started to think it's ok.

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Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011)

Directed by Directed by Mark Waters.
Screenplay by Sean Anders, John Morris and Jared Stern.
Starring Jim Carrey.

Posted by Andrew

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