Jim Carrey Stars In Overhaul Of Beloved Children’s Classic
Published by Richard and Florence Atwater in 1938, Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a popular children’s novel about a house painter who can’t afford to see the world anywhere but in his dreams because he has a wife and kids to support. His life changes the day a penguin arrives in the mail in response to a letter he writes to an admiral exploring Antarctica.
First, Popper acquires a female mate from an aquarium so his new pet won’t be lonely, and the next thing you know she’s giving birth to 10 babies. He then gets a chance to tour the country after training the penguins as a circus act. In the end, however, he decides that forcing them to perform was unfair, so he takes them to the Arctic to free them in the Northern wild.
The film version of Mr. Popper’s Penguins was directed by Mark Waters, a proven master of kiddie fare between Mean Girls and the remake of Freaky Friday. Starring Jim Carrey in the title role, the picture bears little resemblance to the original timeless children’s classic. But the story is nonetheless just as likely to delight young and old alike.
This incarnation of Tom Popper is divorced, not married; rich, not poor; and out of touch with nature, not in touch with it. At the point of departure, the successful Manhattan real estate magnate inherits a half-dozen penguins. Behaving in a manner suggested by their descriptive names, Stinky, Lovey, Bitey, Loudy, Captain and Nimrod proceed to turn his posh, penthouse apartment upside-down.
There is much to keep any audience in stitches here, from the profusion of poop deposited on poor Popper, which allows for lots of reaction shots on the part of the rubber-faced Carrey. He is also hit in the head and the crotch by soccer balls kicked by his emotionally estranged children daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll) and son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton). Just as funny is the alliteration flowing from the mouth of his personal assistant, Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond), whose every other word seems to start with the letter P, from “I can pamper the penguins,” to “You need to procure your promotion.”
Although the exasperated workaholic initially sees the anthropomorphic pets as a total nuisance, of course, they ultimately help him reconcile with his kids and his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) after a realization that family is far more important than making money. The film also features a couple of cute subplots, one involving a nosy zookeeper (Clark Gregg) determined to rescue the penguins, the other, about an owner (Angela Lansbury) reluctant to sell Popper the Tavern On The Green restaurant.
Jim Carrey’s silliest animal vehicle since Ace Ventura!
Excellent (4 stars).
Running time: 95 minutes.
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence.
Ryan Reynolds Stars in Adaptation of DC Comics Series
When you think of Ryan Reynolds, what mostly comes to mind are his wacky romantic romps like The Proposal, Van Wilder, Adventureland and Defintely, Maybe. Comedy chops aside, one still might naturally wonder whether he would able to summon sufficient gravitas when asked to portray a comic book superhero.
Diehard Reynolds fans undoubtedly remember that he’s previously played a caped crusader, Captain Excellent, in Paper Man, as well as a villain, Deadpool, in Wolverine. Obviously all of the above left him well prepared to assume the lead in Green Lantern, where he rises to the occasion with perfect aplomb.
Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), this classic origins adventure is designed to function as a detailed introduction to both the title character and his alter ego, Hal Jordan. At the point of departure we find ladies man Hal leaving late for his job as a test pilot for Ferris Aircraft. He bids the woman he’s just shared a one-night stand with farewell by saying, “Make yourself at home. There’s water in the tap.” What a charmer.
After a training exercise goes terribly wrong at work, slacker Hal finds himself unfavorably compared, as usual, to his colleague/love interest, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). However, his ineptitude doesn’t discourage a dying alien (Temeura Morrison) from another planet who crash lands on Earth from picking Hal as the first human to ever be inducted in the Green Lantern Corps.
Hal is summarily whisked away to the planet Oa where he is given an appropriately verdant stretchy outfit and a matching mask before being whipped into fighting shape by a burly beast named Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan). He learns that when he’s incarnated as the Green Lantern he can turn whatever he thinks into reality by sheer force of will.
Aimed at the ‘tweener demographic, the picture’s simplistically-scripted storyline pits good versus evil as embodied by the Guardians Of The Universe (the Green Lantern Corps) and a pair of diabolical antagonists in Parallax (Clancy Brown) on Oa and Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) down on Earth.
The CGI-driven, intergalactic goings-on in outer space are decidedly cartoonish, especially in contrast to the relatively realistic action transpiring down here. Fortunately, Ryan Reynolds’ combination of suave self-assuredness, seasoned comic timing and old-fashioned ability to kick butt outweigh the film’s minor flaws to make for a satisfying cinematic experience warranting a sequel.
Very Good (3 stars).
Running time: 105 Minutes.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening June 24, 2011
Bad Teacher (R for nudity, profanity, sexuality and drug use). Cameron Diaz stars in the title role of this romantic comedy about a trashy gold digger who schemes to land a wealthy substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) while being chased by another colleague (Jason Segel). With Lucy Punch, Molly Shannon and Thomas Lennon.
Cars 2 (G). Pixar/Disney animated sequel about a couple of cool automobiles (Larry The Cable Guy and Owen Wilson) who become embroiled in international espionage when they venture to Europe to compete in the World Grand Prix Of Racing. With voice work by Emily Mortimer, Michael Caine, John Turturro, Brent Musburger, Joe Mantegna, Cheech Marin, Vanessa Redgrave, Jenifer Lewis and Tony Shalhoub.
The Best And The Brightest (Unrated). Social climber comedy about a desperate couple (Neil Patrick Harris and Bonnie Somerville), new to Manhattan, who enlist the assistance of an education consultant (Amy Sedaris) in order to get their 5-year-old daughter (Amelia Talbot) admitted to an exclusive private school. With John Hodgman, Christopher McDonald and Kate Mulgrew.
A Better Life (PG-13 for profanity, violence and drug use). American Dream drama set in East L.A., about an undocumented immigrant’s (Demian Bichir) attempt to protect his teenage son (Jose Julian) from both street gangs and deportation back to Mexico. With Joaquin Cosio, Nancy Lenehan and Bobby Soto.
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (Unrated). Concert flick featuring the late night talk show host over the course of a 44-city stand-up comedy tour during a period in 2010 when he found himself between networks. With appearances by Jim Carrey, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Conan’s longtime sidekick Andy Richter.
General Orders No. 9 (Unrated). Cinematic portrait of the State of Georgia shot by first-time director Robert Persons who laments the escalating encroachment of urbanization on the South’s natural habitats.
If A Tree Falls (Unrated). Eco-documentary chronicling the exploits of the Earth Liberation Front, the revolutionary environmental group named by the FBI as America’s number one domestic terrorist threat.
Leap Year (Unrated). Sadomasochistic drama set in Mexico City, revolving around a suicidal freelance journalist (Monica del Carmen) who enlists the help of a stranger (Gustavo Sanchez Parra) with whom she shares a one-night stand. (In Spanish with subtitles.)
A Little Help (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use). Bittersweet dramedy about a dental hygienist (Jenna Fischer) who suddenly finds herself resorting to lies to provide for herself and her 12-year-old son (Daniel Yelsky) in the wake of her philandering husband’s (Chris O’Donnell) untimely death. With Kim Coates, Ron Leibman, Lesley Ann Warren and Rob Benedict.
A Love Affair Of Sorts (Unrated). Serendipitous love tale unfolding in Los Angeles during the holiday season, between a surreptitious painter (David Guy Levy) and the Hungarian nanny (Lili Bordan) he catches shoplifting at a bookstore on his cell phone camera. Support cast includes Ivan Kamaras and Jonathan Beckerman.
The Names Of Love (Unrated). French farce about a young, free-spirited political activist (Sara Forestier) who succeeds in converting right-wing conservatives to her liberal cause by sleeping with them until she meets her match, a stubborn, middle-aged Fascist (Jacques Gamblin). With Carole Franck, Jacques Boudet and former Prime Minister of France Lionel Jospin. (In French, Greek, Arabic and English with subtitles.)
Passione (Unrated). John Turturro directed and narrates this labor of love exploring the musical and cultural contributions of the City of Naples. (In Italian, Neapolitan, Arabic and English with subtitles.)
Raw Faith (Unrated). Slice-of-life biopic capturing Minister Marilyn Sewell’s personal struggle with the question of whether or not to leave the pulpit after she falls in love for the first time.
Turtle: The Incredible Journey (G). Nature documentary traces the path a little loggerhead turtle takes from Florida to the frozen North Atlantic to Africa and back to the beach where she was born.
Vincent Wants To Sea (Unrated). Road flick about a man with Tourette’s Syndrome (Florian David Fitz) who runs away to Italy from a Bavarian rehabilitation center accompanied by his obsessive-compulsive roommate (Johannes Allmayer) and an anorexic patient (Karoline Herfurth) in order to fulfill his late mother’s last request. (In German with subtitles.)