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Unexpected Gift Teaches Man Life Lesson in 'Mr. Popper's Penguins'

  • Alan Silverman

Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) and his son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) enjoy the penguins.

Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) and his son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) enjoy the penguins.

Wacky comedy is a specialty of Jim Carrey, but when his co-stars are six Gentoo penguins …on the loose in New York City …things really get wild. Here's a look at Carrey's new film Mr. Popper's Penguins.



BOSS: "Pull yourself together. Your house is full of penguins."
POPPER: "I know."


Tom Popper is working his way up the corporate ladder in a New York financial firm. But all the time it takes leaves too little for his family. Then, right in the middle of the biggest business deal of his career, Mr. Popper's own absent father - a veteran explorer - sends a gift that changes everything and is a huge hit with the kids.



Caring for the penguins and learning to cope with their antics teach Popper some lessons about what is really important in life.

"Everybody ready …and shuffle, ball, step; shuffle, ball, lunge; step, ball, change; step, ball, change …word."


The line of dancing penguins is computer generated or CG, and there are robot penguins for some other scenes. But star Jim Carrey says he had the most fun with the real penguins cavorting on the refrigerated sound stage.

Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) will do whatever it takes to keep his six new friends in line.

Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) will do whatever it takes to keep his six new friends in line.

"We opted for a lot of CG stuff, but most of it is real penguins," explains Carrey. "I love working with animals. I kind of like to join their energy. Often we'd come in to the set and they wouldn't be there, but we'd hear them off in the distance in their habitat going [honking sound]. They would be interrupting the dialog anyway, so I'd say 'they might as well be here. Bring them on in.' A lot of times we did that.

"I love the dinner scene, which is supposed to be just them sitting in their dinner chairs, pecking fish off the plates," Carrey adds. "But the wranglers [the people who guide the animals through a movie scene] had broom poles separating and holding back the penguins as they are trying to get at the fish. And their heads and they're trying to get at the fish. And it's mayhem, basically, and I just had to stay in it and have fun with it. When stuff like that happens, inside I'm going 'yes, yes …go wild!'"

Director Mark Waters says his challenge was not to tame, but to capture on film the wild menagerie and his whimsical star.

To make sure his penguins feel at home, Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) turns his luxurious New York home into a winter wonderland.

To make sure his penguins feel at home, Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) turns his luxurious New York home into a winter wonderland.

"Working with them just gave you an idea of how much fun they are," Waters says. "So even when we chose to do a CG sequence we knew we had to keep that kind of bubbly energy going and keep a little bit of instability in the shooting of it so it would match with all of the things that were live."

"You're tenacious, Popper, I will give you that. Who is responsible for this?"

Mr. Popper's Penguins features Angela Lansbury as a wealthy New Yorker who Popper is trying to sign for a business deal. She says she turns down many film offers, but had reasons to accept this one.

"I found it very hard to resist the opportunity to work with such an extraordinary group of people, particularly led by the great Jim Carrey, who I've been a fan of for many, many years," explains Lansbury. "I was working in the theater and I had a chance to be in a movie after many, many years and everybody made it a very enjoyable event for me."

Mr. Popper's Penguins is loosely adapted from a Newbury Award-winning children's book by Richard and Florence Atwater that was first published almost 75 years ago. The film is set in New York City and features Manhattan landmarks including the ice rink in Central Park and the circular Guggenheim Museum - which proves irresistible to the irrepressible penguins.

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