“Pesky penguins pooping on poor, ‘past it’ performers.” If I had to imagine what an alliterative sales pitch for Mr. Popper’s Penguins was, that‘d be it. The movie — a dull and often offensive (not to mention extremely loose) adaptation of the 1938 children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater, stars once-popular funnyman Jim Carrey, who plays the part of an unlikable, uptight, money-grubbing realtor in New York City to a T. Whilst he smirks sycophantically across the screen, Carrey brings us the tale of Tom Popper, Jr., the son of a seafaring absentee father who constantly sent exotic gifts to his offspring in lieu of actually being there. One day, while trying to close a big deal to convince Angela Lansbury to sell Tavern on the Green, Popper learns that his father has passed away — to wit he receives one final present: a penguin.
Soon, Mr. Popper has more penguins to contend with (all of whom like to watch Charlie Chaplin movies on the TV) — something that wins the approval of his children and ex-wife alike as he himself finally thaws out as he turns his swank apartment set into a large, plush winter wonderland set. But, who the hell cares? Like many recent family films from Fox, Mr. Popper’s Penguins follows an all-too familiar, nauseating lighthearted formula. Family units reunite, critters excrete and fart incessantly in an orgy of abundant scatological humor (why didn’t they just call it Penguins’ Poopers and have done with?), and Jim Carrey — while a bit on the restrained side — is still as annoying as he was in all of his other “family-friendly” flicks. Carla Gugino, Ophelia Lovibond, Clark Gregg, and Philip Baker Hall co-star, and Jeffrey Tambor makes an appearance in this mildly-tolerable moving picture.
In short: it’s a good thing they used a lot of CGI penguins; real ones would have died floating in something this tepid.
The kids will undoubtedly enjoy it more than anyone, but, if you think you can stand something as heartwarmingly stomach-churning as Liar Liar with seabirds, give it a whirl. If anything, you can pop Mr. Popper into your player to see how it looks and sounds on your Blu-ray player. Fox’s presentation of Mr. Popper’s Penguins presents the movie in an extremely crisp 1.85:1 transfer with rich colors and great detail overall. The accompanying 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a satisfying one, delivering more than you would expect from such film fare. The disc also boasts 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtracks in French, Spanish, and English Descriptive Video Service, and English (SDH), French, and Spanish subtitles.
Special features for Mr. Popper’s Penguins start out with an horrific animated short called “Nimrod and Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure.” If you make it past that, there are nearly fifteen minutes worth of fairly decent deleted scenes, a gag reel, and several featurettes: “The Legacy of Mr. Popper’s Penguins” (well, at least they acknowledged the book), four behind-the-scenes looks at wrangling penguins (live and fake alike) “Ready for Their Close Up,” “Ladies and Gentoomen,” “Stuffy Penguin Theater,” and “Penguin Pandemonium,” the latter of which is narrated by the firm of Waters, Green and Hollander, who also return for an audio commentary. Rounding out the goodies (?) here are the first couple chapters of the original novel, and the theatrical trailer.
The main menu is preceded by trailers for several abominable kiddie flicks, such as Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (dear God, no!), Marley & Me: The Puppy Years, and Tooth Fairy 2 with Larry the Cable Guy (um, exactly who had the bright idea to make this buffoon the star of children’s films?). I suggest skipping past these eyesores, however — that way, Mr. Popper’s Penguins will seem that much more like a masterpiece.