Mr. Popper's Penguins Mark Waters

Mr. Popper's Penguins Mark Waters
To summarize this latest manic, cynically and patronizingly uplifting Jim Carrey vehicle, adapted from the 1938 children's book of the same name (Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater), it is essentially a protracted version of the trailer, rife with every family film cliché and poo joke imaginable.

Penguins line dance, Carrey is kicked in the nuts, penguins poop, a sour marriage magically reignites and a surly villain gets his comeuppance. Cue the saccharine score, an out of place musical number and a couple of creepily "special" faces from Jim Carrey, unconvincingly portraying a sane adult male, and you've got the entire routine and recycled package.

To clarify, the rubber-faced In Living Color star plays a clueless father, inattentive of his wife (Carla Gugino) and children (Madeline Carroll, Maxwell Perry Cotton). Similarly, he lives the life of the desiccated, smug businessman trudging through the routine at a nefarious, soulless corporation, which we know is terrible because only artists are happy in movies.

Enter six adorable penguins ― each with a distinct personality and corresponding name (Loudy, Lovey, Stinky, Nimrod, Captain and Bitey) ― and this man's life is thrown for a loop. In his home, they poop on his stylish accessories, get into wacky situations and, most of all, win his heart, turning his priorities upside down while simultaneously shovelling mounds of sugary-sweet heteronormative crap down our throats.

I think somewhere along the way studio executives realized that the general public is mostly content to have their collective, undiscerning values parroted back at them without any challenge or cultural context. They realized that aside from the occasional gimmick, people do prefer to coast along on pop news headlines and insipid entertainment that mirrors a jaded and counterproductive perspective of perceived morality and normalcy. This has to be why something as vapid and blasé, but ultimately harmless, as Mr. Popper's Penguins came to be.

Of course, one can only imagine what this film would have been like if Noah Baumbach was in the director's chair, as originally planned. Now that's a movie I'd pay to see. (Fox)