Fortunately, it's also rather good fun.
Tom Popper (Carrey) is a high-powered Manhattan developer trying to earn a partnership in his firm by buying the iconic Tavern on the Green from its elderly owner (Lansbury). Like his intrepid explorer dad, he barely keeps up with his kids (Carroll and Cotton) from his marriage to Amanda (Gugino), whom he clearly still cares for. Then his father dies and leaves him six mischievous penguins, and all of Tom's careful plans fall apart. First, the birds make a mess of his immaculately minimalist bachelor pad, then they teach him Important Life Lessons.
Yes, the recipe is here for a truly annoying film, so it's a relief that director Waters at least keeps the sentimentality under control. And even the slapstick, while often simply ridiculous, isn't quite as contrived as in the similar Chipmunks or Smurfs movies. Because that's the genre: humans interacting with animated comedy creatures. Despite efforts to blur the line between real and rendered or effects-enhanced penguins, it's not difficult to spot which is which.
Meanwhile, Carrey indulges in quite a bit of broad goofiness, but never drifts into over-the-top gurning. Some of his impressions are actually funny, as are some of the physical gags. And Waters balances this childishness with some smart visual jokes and snappy dialog. Even his assistant Pippi (Lovibond), with her penchant for peppering her patter with P's, emerges as a likeable character. Yes, these samelessly cute penguins win us over and bring the whole movie with thehm.
We even find ourselves rooting for Tom and Amanda to get back together, despite the fact that she has a nice new man in her life. And the two villains of the piece (Gregg's greedy zookeeper and Krumholtz's snoopy neighbour) aren't much more than comical foils on hand to provide the illusion of tension in the formulaic plot. In other words, the film is pretty much exactly what you think it'll be, except that it's actually enjoyable to watch.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 17th June 2011
Box Office USA: $68.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $83.8M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Davis Entertainment, Dune Entertainment III, Dune Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 67 Rotten: 74
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: Mark Waters
Producer: John Davis
Screenwriter: Sean Anders, John Morris, Jared Stern
Starring: Jim Carrey as Tom Popper, Carla Gugino as Amanda, Madeline Carroll as Janie Popper, Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Van Gundy, Ophelia Lovibond as Pippi, James Tupper as Rick, Clark Gregg as Nat Jones, Jeffrey Tambor as Mr. Gremmins, David Krumholtz as Kent, Philip Baker Hall as Franklin, James Tupper as Rick, Dominic Chianese as Reader, William Charles Mitchell as Yates, Henry Kelemen as Young Tommy Popper #1, Kelli Barrett as Tommy's Mom, Maxwell Perry Cotton as Billy
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