I’m a sucker for movies that make me go “awww” (which are kind of like “things that make me go hmmm,” only better), and Mr. Popper’s Penguins was an “aw”-fest from beginning to end. Based loosely on the classic children’s book of the same name, it has all the ingredients for a perfect family film: comedy through the goofy, yet heart-felt Jim Carrey, positive messaging about family ties, and ridiculously cute penguins that will steal your heart from the very first waddle.
Aw little about the film:
Tom Popper, a New York City executive, played with pitch-perfection by Jim Carrey, has put his career before his family for years. His kids feel second best and his ex-wife has moved on to a more touchy-feely type relationship with a guy who says things like, “Greetings,” and probably eats granola while wearing Tevas.
When Popper is greeted at his front door by a crate containing real live penguins, sent to him by his recently-deceased father, his fast-paced, high-profile lifestyle takes a quick flip. The new life is still icy cold, but now for entirely different reasons. He literally has to turn his apartment into an icy tundra, so that the feathery creatures can thrive. Yet, despite the freezing temperatures, warmth and love abound among his feathered friends, which ultimately transcend into his relationships with his kids and his ex-wife.
Carrey was a perfect choice for this role (and apparently chosen over six other leading actors who vied for the role). He has an uncanny way of making unlikable characters liked and otherwise unbelievable scenes believable with his trifecta of talents: wit, heart and charm. The role of Tom Popper is no different. He plays this role with a deft balance of slapstick and sincerity. He lets the audience ride shotgun on his journey, and though the “character arc” is a bit obvious, Carrey and the supporting actors make it buyable and relatable.
The talented supporting cast, including Clark Gregg, Ophelia Lovibond and the legendary Angela Lansbury, were all spot on as well. They did not miss a beat in creating this modern-day arctic fairytale, where penguins can waddle their way through Manhattan and play hockey in a high-end, Upper East Side apartment.
Aw Scene Stealers:
And can we talk about the penguins for a minute? Holy cuteness, Batman! I had no idea penguins were so dang adorable. I knew I loved going to the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld every year, but I had no idea I was going to fall madly in love with them as they waddled, squawked, and flapped their way across the screen. Approximately 30% of the film utilizes computer generated penguins, but as an audience member I could barely tell the difference, except of course when penguins began cascading down the spiraling ramp of the Guggenheim Museum or busting a move to the Vanilla Ice classic, Ice Ice Baby.
It would take a heartless villain to not fall deeply in love with these penguins. As Carla Gugino, who plays Popper’s ex-wife Amanda, states, “You cannot stand next to them and not smile. They’re just such little forces of joy.” And that joy breaks through the Technicolor and grabs you where your heart is in this film.
Biggest Aw of the Movie:
Though the penguins provided many an aw-aw moment (my version of Oprah’s ah-ha moment), my favorite aw moment of the film was between Jim Carrey and Madeline Carroll, who plays his teenage, angst-ridden daughter, Janie. Towards the end of the film, Carrey takes her shopping for her prom dress. In one priceless moment, Jim’s character has a realization that his little girl, the one “he made,” is growing up. He beams with pride and a certain fatherly love that I knew all too well with my own dad before he passed away. It was reminiscent of the fashion shows I performed for my dad after a girls trip to the mall. Looking back I’m sure he was bored to tears with my faux catwalking, but he never let on. He looked at me with the exact look Jim Carrey captured in that scene. Aw-inducing indeed.
This darling comedy has heart and soul for days. You’ll LOL and aw your way through it. You might even leave there looking at your own life a little differently. And Santa better start stocking up on penguins because kids all across America are going to be crazy in love with penguins after this.
This Sappy Mom gives it 4 out of 5 fist pumps.
Oh, and before I waddle on outta here…we have a giveaway! We are giving away a $50 movie theater gift card and a copy of the movie-tie-in edition of the book. Simply leave a comment down below on your favorite Jim Carrey character or quote.
The winner of the gift card and book giveaway is Angela Q. Congratulations, Angela!