BASED on the children’s book by Richard and Florence Atwater, Mr Popper’s Penguins is a cutesy tale of errant fathers, emotionally damaged offspring and feathered friends, whose fates collide in wintry New York City. A Christmas release would have better suited Mark Waters’s whimsical confection, when the lashings of sticky sweet sentiment are easier to swallow, and the chill outside mirrors the swathes of snow and ice on the big screen.
Like the birds at the film’s emotional core, Jim Carrey and co will struggle to take flight in a summer overloaded with flashier blockbusters. The film opens in 1976 with young, rosy-cheeked Tommy Popper communicating with his explorer father in Antarctica using a CB radio.
Fast forward to the present day and Thomas (Jim Carrey) has become a workaholic real estate developer. In order to secure promotion, Thomas must persuade Mrs Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury) to sell the Tavern On The Green restaurant in Central Park. She rebuffs his pitch, determined to sell the historic property to a person of worth.
While he attempts to close the deal, Thomas receives his inheritance from his late father: six Gentoo penguins, which take over his life and rebuild bridges with ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and children Janie (Madeline Carroll) and Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton).
Mr Popper’s Penguins is a saccharine family-oriented comedy, which hammers home the central message about parental responsibility and love triumphing over adversity. Carrey reins in his usual mugging and is completely upstaged by the real and digitally rendered birds, who wreak havoc at a swanky party in the Guggenheim museum with its sloping spiral walkway.