DVD Review: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins DVD boxSTUDIO: Fox | DIRECTOR: Mark Waters | CAST: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Clark Gregg, Jeffrey Tambor, Philip Baker Hall
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/6/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.98, BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO $39.99, DVD with Penguin Plush $34.98
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, animated short, deleted scenes, more
SPECS: PG | 100 min. | Family comedy | widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, Spanish and French subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Jim Carrey (I Love You Phillip Morris) doesn’t make me laugh. The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – I’ve just never been a fan. So it’s no small feat that Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Carrey’s latest movie, managed to charm not only my three progeny, but someone of my own persnickety persuasion, as well.

Mr. Popper's Penguins movie scene

Jim Carrey gets down to his roommates' level in Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Packed tighter than a can of sardines with alliterative fun, Mr. Popper’s Penguins takes the 1939 Newbery Award-winning children’s classic and invests it with the kind of life only next-generation animation could afford it.

Carrey is blessedly understated as the titular Tom Popper, a career-driven man who finds himself estranged from his father at the time of his death while becoming equally distant from his own two children. The arrival of a plague of penguins — frozen stiff so as to induce a state of hibernation until their wooden crates are cracked open in Manhattan, of course — puts Mr. Popper’s priorities in peril, forcing him to reassess his performance as a parent along with his pursuit of a person of paramount importance (Angela Lansbury, The Manchurian Candidate) to his professional success.

It is a credit to the film’s pure charm that the predictable twin plot devices of various penguin pranks and Popper’s plodding personal growth still prove easy to watch. Carrey’s rendering of Popper as a fast-talking dealmaker with a squishy center rings especially true, whether he’s tearing up at the sight of his teenage daughter’s dress for the Snow Ball or over the loss of one of his feathered friend’s first eggs.

Carrey’s pairing with Carla Gugino (Every Day) as Popper’s ex-wife is also quietly winning. All dressed up in his shiny shirt for a second shot at his former love, Carey’s Popper is a person to root for.

And, man, those penguins are cute.

Because you can never have too many penguins, younger audiences will especially enjoy the DVD bonus feature “Ladies and Gentoomen,” a pint-sized documentary about what it would take to keep a real-life Gentoo penguin alive in your luxury New York penthouse apartment.

Also on the DVD, the animated short “Nimrod and Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure” features entirely too much flatulence for this reviewer (maybe my feelings about Dumb and Dumber say it all?), but the penguins seemed to hit all the right notes with my fellow viewers, ages 6, 8 and 10.

Hm. Maybe I could be a Jim Carrey fan after all — just a penguin-sized one.

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About Wendy

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.