(Mark Waters, 2011, USA)
In the latest nail in the coffin that is his career, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (2011) sees Jim Carrey playing Thomas Popper, a divorced, selfish but successful real estate mogul who targets the elderly owners of high-end properties in order to prey on their proclivities and procure their premises. Alienating himself from his two children in his placid New York apartment, Popper is used to living the good life, that is until one day when he (literally) stumbles upon a crate shipped to him from his recently deceased father, who spent his life traveling Antarctica. Inside is a penguin, and much to Popper’s perplexion, five more arrive days later, forcing him to get back in touch with fatherhood, realise his remaining feelings for his ex-wife and remind himself of the more important things in life. All the while turning his home into an ice palace and teaching his feathered friends how to shuffle ball change.
Sacrificing subtlety in favour of a painfully banal screenplay with two dimensional characters and littered with alliteration, sometimes beyond comprehension, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a tour de force in embarrassment, a mass produced example of just how hurried, sloppy and aggravatingly dilettante Hollywood filmmaking has become, especially within the family genre. It’s also a timely reminder of Carrey’s diminished capacity for emulating the heights of his heyday, seen recently with the putrid Yes Man (2008) and lazy Fun With Dick and Jane (2005), and here he cuts a desperate and disengaged figure, a shadow of his former rubber faced self. What we are witnessing is the woebegone aftermath of Carrey’s once-entertaining career, and he here drags the likes of Philip Baker Hall, Carla Gugino and Dominic Chianese (Junior Soprano from The Sopranos) down with him, a cast completely upstaged by a pack of CGI penguins who fart, enjoy Charlie Chaplin movies (hey, at least they have taste) and are prone to pratfalls. It left me stone cold.
Sidenote: Alliteration is pertained purely on purpose.