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Mr. Popper's Penguins


Stars: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Clark Gregg, Angela Lansbury, Madeline Carroll, Ophelia Lovibond, Maxwell Perry Cotton, Jeffrey Tambor

Director: Mark Waters

Although perhaps not quite as charming as it aims to be, this is certainly a film that will send the kids scurrying to the nearest zoo to check out the penguins - though they're unlikely to be as talented and talkative as the bunch on display here.

Carrey is Tom Popper Jr, a go-to guy on the verge of a partnership with a large firm of property developers. He also has a PA called Pippa Pappadopolous (a delightful Lovibond, far from her often grungy UK roles) who gets as many P-words into sentences as p-p-possible.

Unfortunately, Tom's dedication to self-advancement has cost him his marriage to Amanda (a winning Gugino) and he only sees his kids (Carroll, Cotton) at weekends). Perhaps it all has something to do with never seeing his own father, a round-the-world explorer who has just died.

Pop's parting gift to his son is a large crate containing - a penguin. After all attempts to get rid of the bird have various organisations shaking their heads or washing their hands, a second crate arrives, containing five more penguins. Hot on their trail is a devious zookeeper (Michael Moriarty lookalike Gregg) who wants the birds for his own nefarious purposes. So, needless to say, it's not long before Popper becomes p-p-passionate about penguins, gifting them to his own son, via attempts to bond with his teenage daughter and win wifey back, turning his apartment into a mini-Antarctica in the process.

There's lots of pee and poo jokes that junior-school children will love - Popper trains the birds to go to the loo! - and a fair bit of penguin disruption, especially when the Poppers visit an art gallery. Other stars could have played Tom just as well, but Carrey does bring his own brand of zaniness to the role, and charms in scenes opposite Lansbury, as the elderly owner of a Central Park restaurant that Popper's firm is keen to take over. But it's the penguins themselves, a mix of animatronic, CGI and real penguins, that are the true stars. It's fair fun.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
94 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 01 Aug 2011