What is it with screen comics that they can’t maintain their careers? For example, Steve Martin; Robin Williams; Eddie Murphy (a man who has heavily fallen from grace) and now Jim Carrey. In the past, Carrey made comedies that were actually funny, like Dumb and Dumber, Liar Liar (although the ending was awful) and Bruce Almighty. He also made some superb serious films like Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine. Now he is reduced to playing second fiddle to a bunch of CGI penguins. It can’t get any lower, can it?
Thomas Popper is an egotistical property buyer who is separated from his wife and has communication problems with his children, particularly his teenage daughter. His father, an adventurer who was never at home, sends him a parcel before he dies. Inside this parcel is a penguin, who causes all kinds of problems for Popper. Then the problem is made worst when another parcel arrives containing five more penguins, all with their own personalities. Can Popper look after them in his rich apartment? With a New York zoo keeper after the creatures, Popper fighting for his job if he can persuade an old owner of a cafe to sell up and desperately trying to win back his family, the animals could be a help, more of a hindrance.
Firstly, the title. Mr Popper’s Penguins sounds like a codename for a new kind of drug. Maybe it’s the only way to get the kids into the cinema to see it because, quite frankly, you’d need heavy medication to get through it. It suffers from one big thing…it is not funny.
This is a family film, granted. However, family films are usually funnier than out and out comedies (see Pixar/Dreamworks animations for examples). This is like a carbon copy of every-cute-animal-enters-a-human’s-life movie that there have ever been. The penguins destroy the nice apartment. They win the heart of the grumpy owner. Everything is lovely and wonderful and isn’t life great with animals involved. The answer here is, no!
Carrey is a great physical. Whether you like him or not, he has to be admired for his ability to be funny throughout his whole body. That body is looking very old and tired and so the energy we saw in The Mask has well and truly left the building. Every so often we see flashes of his trademark zany humour but is missing from most of the film and this is the type of thing Eddie Murphy would turn up in. If you have Carrey in a movie, use him to his full ability. Don’t let him just stand there while something cute takes all the glory.
The penguins do have personality and the kids will adore them but the plot is so contrived and some times over-complicated, you find yourself wondering if the kids are really listening.
Then we have the family members. The two children in Popper’s life are not as annoying as some but you just know where this is all heading and so you set the sick bucket on your lap ready for the inevitable. (And yes, it does come).
If you are looking for a comedy where the highlight is a penguin pooing, then this is definitely for you. If you want to see an otherwise comic talent being reduced to a shadow of his former self, then this is for you. If you want a film to laugh all the way through, then go look for it somewhere else because quite frankly, this is even worst than The Hangover Part II and I never thought I would hear myself say those words. Awful. Awful. Awful.