Props for ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’

by | Jun 16, 2011 | Frontline

Mr. Popper's Penguins

My three young boys were not Jim Carrey fans,
but that changed this summer when Alex, Andrew and Chase saw trailers of the
rubber-faced actor in Mr. Popper’s Penguins.

After reading the 1939 Newbery Award-winning
children’s book with my wife, Tammy, last year, the brothers were excited to
watch the “loose film adaptation” of Richard and Florence Atwater’s classic in
1938. In the book, Popper is a house painter who starts breeding trained
penguins and takes his animal act on the road, creating a national sensation.

In the 2011 contemporary movie version,
Carrey plays Popper, a successful Donald Trump-like real estate mogul, whose
cold relationship with his family warms up after he “inherits” six cute but
trouble-making penguins from Antarctica from his recently-deceased father.

Growing up, little Tommy Popper (“Tippy Toe”)
knew his globe-trotting adventurer dad more by the sound of his father’s voice
(“Bald Eagle”) during nightly ham radio transmissions than from spending any
real time with him. “The hardest thing about having it all is discovering what’s
missing,” the film’s trailer points out.

Divorced from his wife of 15 years, Amanda
(Carla Gugino), Popper spends every other weekend with the couple’s children,
Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) and Janie (Madeline Carroll), to whom he feels
detached—echoing his relationship with his absentee father.

Initially, Popper is desperate to get rid of
the penguins, but when Billy and Janie get attached to the creatures, he
embraces them as a way to connect with his kids, and the birds also help him
fall in love again with his ex-wife.

Of course, the stars of the live-action film
are Bitey, Lovey, Loudy, Stinky, Nimrod and Captain—the penguins named after
their quirky personalities. Filmed on a refrigerated soundstage with real Gentoo
penguins, the movie reportedly only used some CGI penguins for a seamless blend
of live action.

The lovable and mischievous penguins
naturally steal the show with their antics, including swimming about in the
bathtub, aping Charlie Chaplin while glued to the TV, stealing the covers in bed
and splish splashing at the Guggenheim Museum.

Of course my kids got a kick out of their
shenanigans. “They were very funny,” Chase, 5, said. Andrew, 8, added: “I like
Bitey because he was feisty.” Alex, 10, noted: “The movie made me wish we had
penguins at home.”

Despite the film’s formulaic plot—Popper’s
penguins turn his swank New York apartment into a snowy winter wonderland and
the rest of his life upside-down—the movie works and is a lot of fun because of
the chemistry between the penguins and Carrey.

Along with his trademark uninhibited
zaniness, a Jimmy Stewart impersonation and a pretending-to-be-in-slow-motion
gag, Carrey is both silly and surprisingly heartwarming as Mr. Popper. Carrey is
on charted territory in the movie—think Ace Ventura becomes a family man.

Also turning in a funny performance is
Ophelia Lovibond, who plays Popper’s perky secretary Pippy, who has a peculiar
proclivity for the persistent practice of using words pertaining to the letter
p. Meanwhile, Broadway legend and Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury, still
elegant at 85, is solid as the Tavern on the Green owner who prizes noble
character over greed.

Rated PG, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is
surprisingly clean—sans animal fart and poop humor, and use of the pseudo curse
word “freakin”—considering Mean Girls director Mark Waters was at the helm of
the film, which was scripted by Sean Anders and John Morris (She’s Out of My
League
, Hot Tub Time Machine).

Originally slated for a release on Aug. 5,
2011, the movie was pulled up to June 17 to coincide with Father’s Day. Carrey,
49, told Breezy Mama that he got involved with the project because of the themes
of family in the story.

“That’s what really drew me to the movie
other than the fact that I love penguins,” Carrey said. “The theme of somebody
who is an adventurer but doesn’t explore his relationship with his own son is an
amazing theme for me.”

Carrey told Breezy Mama that he could relate
to the subject because he had felt that way with his own daughter, Jane, now 24.
“There have been times in my life when I was so crazed with Hollywood and
everything that was going on that I missed time with my daughter,” Carrey said.
“We’ve certainly mended anything that was going on between us. We’re closer than
ever. … The most important thing in the world is to make your kids feel like
they’re the most important thing to you.”

What an appropriate message for an
entertaining, summer family-friendly comedy. It also helps that Jim Carrey plus
incredibly adorable penguins equals a movie your children will love and laugh
at.

Content Watch: Mr. Popper’s Penguins is rated
PG for mild rude humor and some language. Parents with young children may want
to discuss lying and bribing shown in the film.

Image courtesy of 20th
Century Fox

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