Genre(s): Comedy, Family
Fox | PG – 94 min. – $39.99 | December 6, 2011
Directed by: Mark Waters
Writer(s): Richard Atwater & Florence Atwater (novel); Sean Anders & John Morris and Jared Stern (screenplay)
Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond, Clark Gregg
Theatrical Release Date: June 17, 2011
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel, BD-Live, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 3
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Thomas Popper (JIM CARREY) is a successful realtor working for a firm, buying up property to be torn down or converted for the company. Of course, having success means he’s also divorced from an ex-wife (CARLA GUGINO) and is a bit detached from his kids (MADELINE CARROLL, MAXWELL PERRY COTTON), overlooking the simpler things in life. As a kid, his own father wasn’t around very much, traveling around the world communicating only through a CB radio, but even then that fades and he never got to see or speak to him.
When Popper’s father dies, the only thing he’s left in the will is a large crate delivered to the front door of his posh, modernistic NYC apartment. As you might guess, inside this crate is a penguin and despite his efforts to send it back, the next morning another crate arrives with five more penguins inside. Conveniently, inside the first crate was a letter from his father that falls idly underneath a table to be found in the third act, but I’ll get to that in a moment. At first Popper is horrified by the situation which comes at the worst possible time. He’s close to making partner at the firm but needs to buy up one more property: Tavern on the Green owned by a tenacious old woman Mrs. Van Gundy (ANGELA LANSBURY).
Popper’s vigor for getting rid of the penguins subsides when the family comes over for his son’s birthday party when they discover the penguins and his son assumed they were his birthday gift. Now he has a problem as his son and teenage daughter, whom he’s had trouble connecting with, have grown attached to the penguins. Each of the penguins have their own unique personalities and are named such: Captain (the first to arrive), Nimrod (because he’s clumsy), Stinky (greets people with gas), Lovey (affectionate to others), Loudy (for obvious reasons) and Bitey (again, for obvious reasons). Well, he’s now got to keep them around or else let down his kids but wouldn’t you know it, he’s grown attached to the critters.
Of course, every family film has got to have an antagonist and for Mr. Popper’s Penguins that job goes to venerable everyman actor, Clark Gregg as a New York Zoo official who is after the penguins because they’re a rare and special breed. At first he’s unsuccessful but we know what will happen in the third act.
It doesn’t quite pain me to write this, but it is surprising that I thought Mr. Popper’s Penguins wasn’t a bad movie. It made me laugh at the obvious jokes (but I’m an easy target) and even though the plot devices are at the very least inane but Jim Carrey makes the material work.
The story doesn’t make a lick of sense when you consider the circumstances. In fact, at one point Popper’s bosses stop by, barge in and see the insanity Popper’s life has devolved to. And yet we as an audience are supposed to pooh-pooh their comments? How is it no other adults took Popper aside and suggested that perhaps the penguins belong in the arctic? Only in Hollywood would somebody keeping penguins as a pet in their igloo apartment would be normal and even acceptable.
In terms of the cast, like I said, Jim Carrey transcends the script and at times looks like his old comedic self. Unfortunately everyone else, including the lovely Carla Gugino, is relegated to thankless parts that are merely there to get the main character, and the penguins for that matter, from point A to point C. Heck, Gugino’s character is so thinly written that it never rings true as to why she would want to get back involved with Popper again.
In any event, I realize Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a family movie made for kids and on that front it’s harmless. There’s enough laughs and funny jokes to keep the adults entertained while kids will be glued watching the zany penguins at work. It’s not a great movie by any stretch but I laughed more than a few times and it’s a good way to spend 90-minutes.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
The Blu-ray comes packaged in a standard case and a glossy slip cover.
Audio Commentary – Director Mark Waters, Editor Bruce Green and Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Hollander sit down for an informative but laid back commentary track. The trio covers a variety of subjects in their respective fields and also gets into working with the cast and the penguins.
Nimrod and Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure (6:11; HD) is a (poorly) animated short that shows us what Popper’s Penguins are up to and the zoo guy is back to capture them. Not sure exactly what “adventure” what Nimrod and Stinky were on since it involves all of them.
Deleted Scenes (14:32; HD) includes 12 scenes not fit for the final version and really none of them are really special and were removed for pacing. This is accompanied with an optional commentary track.
Gag Reel (2:05; HD) – As one can imagine, there’s plenty on-set hijinks or line flubs when you involved Jim Carrey.
The Legacy of Mr. Popper’s Penguins (4:04; HD) tackles history behind the award-winning 1938 novel and its authors. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Ready for Their Close-up (8:28; HD) is a short featurette, with comments by the cast and crew, focusing on working with the penguins and the challenges that goes with it.
Ladies and Gentoomen (5:55; HD) – This educational featurette goes over the different species of penguins and what makes them unique over other species.
Stuffy Penguin Theater (4:21; HD) montage covers using stuff penguins as a stand-in for the actors and visual effects animators to work with. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Penguin Pandemonium (3:12; HD) is similar to the previous featurette where they do walkthrough/lighting references for the CGI penguins. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Previews – Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, Marley & Me: The Puppy Years, Tooth Fairy 2
Also included is the theatrical trailer (1:13; HD), a BD-Live portal, a standard def/retail DVD Copy and a Digital Copy (** Blu-ray Exclusive **) compatible with iTunes. Thankfully Fox hasn’t turned to UltraViolet… yet.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Fox gives the Blu-ray a fine looking 1080p high-definition transfer. Obviously for a new movie, you aren’t going to get any flaws and although couldn’t characterize this as an eye-popping visual feast, it’s still well detailed throughout. Colors also seem well balanced, never looking blown out and the black levels look even.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track isn’t great but gets the job done. Outside of some zany scenes, accompanied by Rolfe Kent’s wacky score, this is primarily a dialogue driven film and on that front, it’s crisp, clear and easy to understand. But during the more active sequences, although it sounds good, it doesn’t exactly have much depth to it. The rear channels get some use mainly with background or ambient noises but most of the action takes place in the center and front channels.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a fun movie for the entire family. Sure, the plot is nonsensical and silly, the acting by the kids is pretty bad and the jokes are easy, but I managed to laugh a few times. The Blu-ray has good video and audio transfers while there are some decent, albeit forgettable, features. I’d say give this a rental.