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Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/6/2011

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/22/2011

It seems that all that I do anymore is point out movie trends, so here's another one. Hollywood seems to love to take well-known/beloved children's book and then change everything. I don't really read children's books, so I'm glad that I have my kids around to let me know when poetic license has been taken. Movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Meet the Robinsons and Fantastic Mr. Fox have taken their source material and ran with it, often altering many things in the process. The latest entry into this fad is Mr. Popper's Penguins, which, according to my kids, got the penguins part right.

Jim Carrey stars in Mr. Popper's Penguins as Tom Popper, a high-powered New York City real estate broker. Tom's father was an explorer and adventurer who was rarely home, but always sent Tom gifts. Tom receives word that his father has died and he then gets one final present from his dad -- a penguin. When he calls to complain about this, he's misunderstood, and five more penguins arrive. He has no idea what to do with the creatures. Presumably due to his relationship with his father, Tom has never put much stock into family, and thus he's divorced from Amanda (Carla Gugino) and doesn't connect with his kids, Janie (Madeline Carroll) and Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton). However, once they see the penguins, and Janie and Billy are suddenly interested in their father. This encourages Tom to care for the penguins and make his home comfortable for them. However, zookeeper Nat Jones (Clark Gregg) wants the penguins for his exhibit and he'll stop at nothing to get them.

Mr. Popper's Penguins is an interesting choice for Jim Carrey. In the past, he has been a part of two family films, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Horton Hears a Who. (Movies like The Maskand Ace Ventura are family movies only if you are a really bad parent.) Those aren't the most radical movies ever made, but each is a bit quirky and they each allow Jim Carrey to be Jim Carrey. However, Mr. Popper's Penguins is much more of a "safe" film. The movie follows a fairly linear "family movie" plotline throughout, and it rarely ventures into any surprising territory. I don't want to use the term "cookie cutter", but it would certainly fit this movie. In addition, Carrey plays the straight man here and rarely lets go. By way of comparison, he was technically the straight man in Liar Liar, but he was allowed to go bonkers. Here, we rarely get anything which could be considered classic Jim Carrey, save for one joke concerning a sandwich which sounds as if it were ad-libbed.

But, sometimes safe can be oddly satisfying. Mr. Popper's Penguins never colors outside of the lines, but it does have its positive attributes. First and foremost, the penguins are cute. While, at times it's way too obvious that the penguins are CG, there are enough real penguins sprinkled in to maintain the illusion for most of the movie. Outside of the fact that the penguins are each given individual personas (Stinky, Loudy, Bitey, etc.), the penguins have personality, and it's nearly impossible to not find them endearing. The story follows a very basic "man overly consumed with work ignores family and it takes a special event to bring them back together" story, but the use of penguins is new. We get just enough backstory on Tom to give the movie some much needed depth and a subplot with Angela Lansbury doesn't feel tacked on.

Does Jim Carrey need to be wacky in every movie? No, but Mr. Popper's Penguins could have used some of his trademark manic energy. Without it, the movie feels pedestrian at times, and it's incredibly predictable. Still, it's a good family film and there was no objectionable material that I can recall. Mr. Popper's Penguins has some nice moments, and Jim Carrey is funny in a few mild way, but I didn't flipper over it.

Mr. Popper's Penguins waddles onto Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 31 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. Several scenes take place against snowy white backgrounds and we see no intrusive grain or video noise here. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good, sometimes too good, as the CG penguins look rubbery. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly good and we get some nice off-screen penguin sounds. The surround sound effects come into play when the penguins run amok in the apartment and during the finale. I didn't note any significant subwoofer effects.

The Mr. Popper's Penguins Blu-ray Disc contains many extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Mark Waters, Editor Bruce Green and Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Hollander. "Nimrod and Stinky's Antarctic Adventure" (6 minutes) is an animated epilogue to the film. The Disc contains thirteen DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes. Most of these are very incidental moments, which don't introduce any new characters or subplots. There are a few funny Carrey lines here, but most of the scenes are forgettable. We get a 2-minute GAG REEL. "The Legacy of Mr. Popper's Penguins" (4 minutes) explores the history and impact of the source novel. and we get to see pages from the book in "Original Story Sampler". We get to see the penguins in action on the set and hear the actors talking about their experiences with them in "Ready for Their Closeup" (8 minutes). "Ladies and Gentoomen" (6 minutes) takes us to Seaworld to learn more about penguins. "Stuffy Penguin Theater" (4 minutes) shows how stuffed penguins were used as stand ins for the CG penguins. "Penguin Pandemonium" (3 minutes) takes us step-by-step through the work which went into creating one shot with the CG penguins. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long