Aside from Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) mistakenly believing that "BFF" stands for Big Fat Friend, the only original element to be found anywhere in Mr. Popper's Penguins is the character of Pippi, Popper's personal assistant and a Brit prone to parleying with prose that begins with the letter "p." The London-born actress with the terrific name of Ophelia Lovibond essays this role, and she provides a lift to every scene in which she appears.
Unfortunately, she doesn't appear nearly enough to save this ghastly family film. A bastardization of the award-winning children's book, this finds Carrey cast as a ruthless businessman with daddy issues, spousal issues, and neglected kids issues. Mr. Popper has always placed his job above all else, but that changes after he receives a parting gift from his deceased father: six penguins that take over his apartment and his life. Initially desperate to get rid of these creatures, he soon finds that the birds are useful in bringing him back together with his family. But what's this? A nasty zoologist (Clark Gregg) is harassing Popper and his new friends (given names like Loudy, Bitey and Stinky), insisting that the birds would fare better in a zoo than an apartment.
The penguins seen in the picture are a mix of actual animals and CGI creations, and here's a quick primer for those unable to tell the difference: The ones acting normal are the real birds while the ones pooping in Popper's face or leaning over to break wind are the fake ones. Watching the real penguins, your have to feel sorry for them — in this picture, they get less respect than Rodney Dangerfield. Still, they fare better than Carrey, who's only allowed to try something new a couple of times; for the most part, he's simply required to react to the wacky penguin shenanigans.
Small children might get restless during the sequences in which Popper tries to patch up his relationship with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino is wasted as the missus), but they'll otherwise be kept entertained by the animal antics. Adults, on the other hand, might want to stay away — as Pippi would doubtless note, this movie is putrid, puerile and painful.
MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS
DIRECTED BY Mark Waters
STARS Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino