Mr. Popper's Penguins



Carrey's penguin antics are predictable but still funny.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: June 17, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 95 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

This isn't an educational movie, but there are incidental lessons about penguins -- their habitats, how they stay imprinted on mates, their loyalty, and their flightless nature.

Positive messages

Mr. Popper develops from a manipulative real-estate developer into a hands-on father who puts family first.

Positive role models

Although at first he's considered the kind of father who often disappoints his kids, Mr. Popper eventually learns to make them the top priority in his life. Although he's not perfect, he's there for his kids, and he learns from his own father's mistakes.

Violence & scariness

As in every Jim Carrey movie, slapstick humor and physical comedy are on full display. But there's no actual violence, except that a zoo keeper is hit in the face ... with his own hand. A penguin's beloved egg is deemed unviable by a zoologist. Depictions of a busy but absentee father and how casually his death is received by his grown-up son may be confusing or upsetting to sensitive kids.

Sexy stuff

A former husband and wife go on a date and eventually kiss; meanwhile, the ex-wife has a boyfriend. A joke includes a Viagra reference (Popper proclaims his vigor and "Viagra-tality"). A teen girl pines over a boy whom she hopes will ask her to a school dance. A man and a woman flirt after they discover a mutual idiosyncrasy. A penguin called Lovey is accused of fathering the eggs of three different penguins.


Mild insults include "butt," "stupid," "crazy," "dumb," "poo," "pee," and the like. Also "oh my God."


Product placement includes MacBook Pro. Many New York landmarks/teams are mentioned/featured prominently.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Champagne at a fancy party; dinner reception has alcohol.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this live-action comedy was inspired by the classic Newbery Award-winning children's book Mr. Popper's Penguins. Like the book, the movie is fine for early elementary-schoolers, who will giggle at Jim Carrey's slapstick antics and all the messes the penguins make. Language is tame -- with the occasional "butt," "poo," "pee," and "stupid" thrown into the dialogue -- and there's some flirting/kissing, as well as one joke with a Viagra reference. Kids may pick up a thing or two about how to care for penguins, but this movie is ultimately about learning to put family first ... and laughing at sight gags.

What's the story?

One day, incredibly successful New York City commercial real-estate developer Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) gets an unexpected inheritance from his deceased father -- a penguin. Later in the week, the divorced father of two receives five more penguins, and just as he's about to hand them over the Central Park Zoo, his own young son arrives, believing they're a birthday present for him. To appease his son and teen daughter, Popper promises to keep the flightless birds in his Manhattan duplex. Although he's supposed to be wooing the elderly Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury) of Central Park's Tavern on the Green restaurant to sell him the property, Popper finds himself more and more immersed in the life of a penguin caretaker -- first for the sake of his two kids, and later because he finds himself attached to them.

Is it any good?


Like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, this isn't a faithful adaptation of the original kids' book -- but considering that the original book was written in the 1930s, it's somewhat understandable to update the story. And since any movie dealing with animals is almost by definition sugary sweet, we can excuse some of the plot's predictably sentimental aspects, like the "all work, no family time" dad who realizes that "less work, more play" is a better way to parent. Once you're aware that the movie is more of an homage than a pure adaptation and that you pretty much know what's going to happen from the first moment you lay eyes on Carrey's malleable face, MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is a surprisingly entertaining family comedy.

No, this isn't the kind of kid-friendly movie you immediately pre-order the DVD for after seeing, but between the penguin choreography (expect kids to do the shuffle-hop-step/"Word" tap dance for a few days), the slapsticky shenanigans, and Carrey's comedic gifts, there are enough laughs to keep parents awake and interested. One of the best parts of the movie is the fact that the penguins are pacified by watching Charlie Chaplin movies on TV; they just can't get enough of the legendary comedian. Then there's the adorable supporting character Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond), who speaks solely in alliterations beginning with the letter P. Just when you expect the gimmick to grow old, it keeps making you smile -- like the movie itself.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the popularity of animal movies. Why are we so entertained by human-acting animals who are lovable but wreak comedic havoc?

  • How is the movie different than the book? Is it important for movies to be faithful to their source stories, or is OK for them be "loosely adapted" or "inspired by," like this movie? What are your favorite books-turned-movies?

  • How does taking care of the penguins change Mr. Popper? Kids: How have your pets changed you?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about the way Mr. Popper reacts to his father's death. Do they understand why Mr. Popper was mad at his dad? How does the movie demonstrate that there are better ways for families to behave?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 17, 2011
DVD release date:December 6, 2011
Cast:Angela Lansbury, Carla Gugino, Jim Carrey
Director:Mark Waters
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Topics:Book characters, Wild animals
Run time:95 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:mild rude humor and some language

This review of Mr. Popper's Penguins was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 8 year old Written byjaywdet June 17, 2011

Divorced Parents be Warned

I am not going to write a long review on this, just be warned... If you are a divorced parent and you think your child harbors any hope of you and your ex getting back together (nearly all of them do) then you should think a bit about going to see this. My son, while he laughed throughout the movie, and did enjoy it, cried when we got home. He asked if that would happen to us. To which of course I had to reply, no. This movie is a fairy tail for divorced kids that ends very unrealistically. It is kinda like rubbing their noses in it. You are warned.
Kid, 11 years old June 17, 2011

Mr. Popper's Penguins

This was good, though would've been better if it stayed true to the book. Mr. Popper was a house painter, not a businessman in the book. Nimrod was Clumsy in the book. And the theme in this is 'family bonding', in the book it was 'training penguins to entertain'. Some slapstick humor. Two exes get back together. This was fun, but would be a 5 stars if it stayed with the book.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 12 years old June 22, 2011

Funny Jim Carrey movie for penguin lovers!

I would have never gone to see this movie if my Mom hadn't told me to go with her. The movie was hilarious. Some slapstick humor, and minimal violence was included. The death of the main character's father might upset younger kids. An egg does not hatch (the baby penguin died in the egg). There are some love issues in the movie too. A couple is divorced, but seem to get back together at the end. There is some champagne and alcohol consumption. There is no kissing! I have no idea why commonsense said that there was a kiss. But anyway, go watch it!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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