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2011-06-24 09:07:24 Views : 2984 |

Jim Carrey is Back



Cecilwhig - There is a lot to be said for star power. Oh, sure. Most kids will pester their parents to pay for "Mr. Popper's Penguins" pronto this weekend (Ha! Say that five times fast!), and the main draw for them will be the six Arctic birds of the film's title. After all, today's youngins weren't around when Jim Carrey was blowing up big time on TV's "In Living Color" or launching into the box-office stratosphere in the mid-1990s with a string of hits that included "Ace Ventura," "The Mask," and "Dumb and Dumber."

Carrey, though, is the main reason to see this new family film. If this were a lower-budgeted flick released in say March or October, you'd be slogging through it with James Marsden or Jason Ritter as the lead. And those guys would let the penguins do all of the heavy lifting. Carrey, though, works his tail off in this comedy to invest it with some emotion and genuine comic chops.


Everything else is pretty vanilla and safe. But Carrey finds a way in multiple scenes to get laughs that weren't originally on the script page or probably even in the scene rehearsals.

Carrey plays the titular Popper, a workaholic who specializes in acquiring landmark buildings for a private equity firm and transforming them into more profitable uses. His latest target is Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park. Its fictional owner, Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), is considering selling the famed eatery, and it's up to Popper to convince her that he and his firm will take the best care of it. Van Gundy wants only to sell to a family operation that will nurture her legacy.

Popper, though, is divorced from Amanda (Carla Gugino); has strained relations with his two kids, snotty teen Janie (Madeline Carroll) and quick-witted tyke Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton); and has never been able to forgive his father for exploring the world in search of fortune instead of spending time with him when he was a child. Into his life come six penguins that he inherits from his recently deceased old man. Billy immediately thinks they are a birthday gift for him. When he sees how attached the boy and Janie get to the birds, Popper can't bear to part with them.

Further complicating matters are a nosey neighbor (David Krumholtz) who has it in for Popper, and a New York City zoo official (Clark Gregg) who covets the penguins for his own. This all leads to some tried-and-true life lessons about family, caring for each other, slowing down and enjoying things, and so forth.

“Mr. Popper's Penguins" is Hollywood formula, but it's well poured and goes down easy. The Powers That Be know it's hard to go wrong with penguins, as witnessed by the successes of "Happy Feet," "Surf's Up," and "March of the Penguins," and they don't go wrong here. Each of the six birds in the film is given a specific personality trait – from the flatulent Stinky to the clumsy Nimrod to the heroic Captain – and director Mark Waters balances their scenes with the human moments well.

But, again, it's Carrey who carries the film. Whether he is running into a tense scene in comical slow-motion or bagging on an elderly executive (Philip Baker Hall) for his advanced age, J.C. proves he can still score big laughs in his most mainstream, live-action role in years.

Like "Judy Moody" last week, this is based on a popular children's book. Unlike "Judy Moody," this is a family flick, not a children's flick. And it has a little something for everyone, not the least of which is genuine heart. And it has penguins!





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