Review: Mr Popper's Penguins

(G) **

Director: Mark Waters.

Cast: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury.

WHEN was the last time Jim Carrey made a really good live-action film?

The answer is 2004, the year of Lemony Snickett and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. The fact it's been so long makes it less surprising to see him turn up in this lightweight piece of family fluff that will be amusing only to people who think the idea of a penguin pooping is hilarious. So under 10s, basically.

Based very, very loosely on the 1938 book of the same name, Carrey plays the eponymous Tom Popper, a vaguely ruthless New York City property developer who is given an ultimatum by his bosses - get the owners of Central Park's Tavern On The Green to sell up or he'll never became a partner of the firm.

With this life-changing deal in the balance, Popper receives a package from his estranged late father that contains a penguin. Then through a garbled phone call, he ends up with more penguins.

As far as all-ages films go, Mr Popper's Penguins is about as inoffensive as they come. Most of the gags relate to potty humour (from the penguins) or slapstick (falling down, getting hurt), and Carrey has his wacky dial turned back to a respectable five or six, so he's enjoyably watchable.

Predictable is another key word here. As soon as Popper's ex-wife (Gugino) appears on screen, we know where that's going to end up, same as with his relationship with his kids and his work-centric lifestyle. The penguins are going to teach him to love. Obviously.

There is nothing taxing about this piece of harmless fun, but it is also incredibly forgettable. And while the younger kids might get plenty of giggles, most of the grown-ups will likely be bored silly.

And finally a message to parents: when taking your kids to the movies, don't let them wear those shoes that light up with flashing lights when they walk unless you're 100 per cent certain that they won't start walking around every five minutes because they're more interested in their flashing shoes than the movie.

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