Mr. Popper's Penguins (Blu-ray)
I imagine the pitch worked something like this: “Jim Carrey stars in LIAR, LIAR with CGI penguins. Kids and adults will love it, it will be a return to Carrey’s roots. Like Don Knotts in Mr. Limpet.” Since watching this confusing and absolutely mediocre movie, I’ve been trying to figure out WHY it was made. It speaks, I think, to the dumbing down of America. Give us a funny man, make him do funny things with a funny voice, and include some potty humor with some of the cutest animals in the world.
Mr. Popper is an elite businessman in Manhattan at the onset of this movie. His childhood was marred by an increasingly absentee father who was constantly having adventures of some kind without his family. In a rare true-to-life moment, he has become the father that he hated, not really involved in his own children’s lives. When we start he is just about to be made partner in his non-descript big-brother business, but to claim his prize he has to convince the owner of the Tavern on the Green to sell him the location so that they can tear it down and build something really impressive in Central Park.
When his father dies he leaves him next-to-nothing in the will. Popper’s empty life appears ready to roll on to completion… until his final souvenir arrives. A crate at the door of his giant Manhattan apartment contains a penguin who appears to be dead and stuffed, until he thaws and starts tearing up the apartment. Carrey tries to get rid of the bird, but instead accidentally orders 5 more from his father’s former friend and soon his has 6 birds living in his house and tearing his life apart. But… wait! Surprise! His son and daughter are actually connecting with him for the first time over these flightless fowl and their sudden insertion into his life. Add in a caricature of menace in Zookeeper/Penguin expert Nat Jones (the wonderful Clark Gregg) and you can guess where the story will go from here.
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS is a movie that is full of moments for the young crowd, and my 2 ½ year old son enjoyed the funny moments with the penguins quite a bit. But even he was bored when the gags repeat themselves in short order. I can SEE the appeal of making a movie with CGI penguins, but the execution is terrible. Instead of having lots of fun with the penguins, the movie is full of moments where Carrey goes back and forth between wanting to be a loving father and refusing to let go of his life in corporate America. Maybe the movie is actually smarter than I’m giving it credit… maybe it’s actually a commentary on the sad state of things in a material society where what you have means more than who you have… Either way, we’re left with a movie that is decidedly less fun than it could have been and the audience is left wanting.
Finally, let us talk about Jim Carrey, an actor who is also a bit of an enigma. In my opinion one of the best actors of the current generation, Carrey makes some of the most confusing choices of any actor out there. Why he would agree to make a movie this one-dimensional is beyond me. I doubt he would admit to the reasoning of one of the greatest actors of all time, Michael Caine, who stated publicly that movies like JAWS 4 paid the bills. Instead, we watch this movie and wonder what Carrey was thinking while being bored out of our minds.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The transfer is crisp and clear but, as happens on some CGI elements, the penguins do appear to be CGI pretty blatantly. Your kids won’t notice, but you probably will.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is enjoyable and puts you in the middle of the action with the penguins.
Audio Commentary with Director Mark Waters, Editor Bruce Green, and Visual Effects Supervisor Richard Hollander (01:34:18) A pretty good commentary for a mediocre movie. Pretty in depth, but they talk pretty consistently throughout the entire thing. The folks talk a lot about their experiences working with the penguins and about the CGI elements of the film.
Nimrod & Stinky’s Antarctic Adventure (06:11) An artistic but poorly animated short featuring the voice talent of Clark Gregg. Sadly just not that funny.
Deleted Scenes (14:32) A collection of 12 scenes available for your viewing pleasure. They are available with commentary or without. The commentary is decent but nothing amazing. As with many deleted scenes (and this movie) these are better left unwatched.
Gag Reel (02:05) A short reel of gaffs from the movie – mostly Carrey with the penguins. The laughs are few and far between, even for such a short feature.
The Legacy of Mr. Popper’s Penguins (04:04) This short focuses on the Newberry Award winning children’s book upon which this story is based.
Ready for Their Closeup (08:28) Crew and cast talk about working with the real penguins on the set and relay some of their favorite experiences. This is the most fun I had with the entire Blu-ray.
Ladies and Gentooman (05:55) A Seaworld scientist tells us about the penguins featured in the film with footage from the movie and of the penguins in the wild.
Stuffy Penguin Theater (04:21) This feature focuses on the process of putting in CGI penguins when the shots didn’t allow use of the real mccoy. The effects shots required mapping out each movement with stuffed toys. Kind of interesting.
Penguin Pandemonium (03:12) Featuring director’s commentary, this is a long take that shows how the director laid out where he wanted to see the penguins. Then we get to see the lighting reference and increasingly layered shots as they go through each piece of the process of adding CGI.
The Blu-ray also features an Original Story Sampler containing the first few chapters of the children’s book and the Theatrical Trailer for the movie. The set we received also features a DVD copy of the film and Digital Copy (both in standard definition).