“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.