Mr. Popper's Penguins

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Mr. Popper's Penguins Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Carrey's penguin antics are predictable but still funny.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 35 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 53 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byisabellatrix July 1, 2011

Funny and enjoyable. Pause on the younger kids.

I took 3 kids- ages 4, 6, and 9. All in all everyone enjoyed it. Very funny! I'm not usually a Jim Carrey fan- I tend to think his humor can be a little ov... Continue reading
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 gett... Continue reading
Kid, 5 years old April 7, 2021
Teen, 14 years old Written byTaco Talks Movies January 31, 2021

Fun Family movie

There is some kissing and Romance as well as some but very little alcohol. No cursing but there’s insults like stupid, sexy and oh my god and there are some adu... Continue reading

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?

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS is a surprisingly entertaining family comedy. 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, you just sit back and enjoy.

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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