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Film / Mr. Popper's Penguins

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Sometimes inheritance just really bites.

A 2011 film starring Jim Carrey and directed by Mark Waters based on Richard and Florence Altwater's children's book of the same name.

Mr. Thomas "Tom" Popper, Jr. (Carrey), a workaholic realtor, who spends so little time with his family that he and his wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) recently divorced and he doesn't pay much attention to his kids Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) and Janie. One day, Popper gets a surprise from his recently deceased father: a gentoo penguin. Upon trying to return it, a miscommunication is made and is sent five more penguins instead. He tries everything in his power to be rid of the penguins, but when his children fall in love with them, his tune changes. Throughout the course of the movie, Mr. Popper becomes close to the penguins and learns that the most important thing in life is family. Meanwhile greedy zookeeper and penguin expert Nat Jones (Clark Gregg) is willing to do whatever it takes to get the penguins into his zoo for wealth even if it means having to break into Mr. Popper's home to steal them, or ruin Mr. Popper's life.

Mr. Popper's Penguins contains examples of

  • Amicably Divorced: Mr. Popper and his ex wife get along great, and even start dating.
  • Artistic License – Biology: From front to finish. Particularly jarring though is how often the eggs are left unprotected by the birds.
    • And then, the family trekking through Antarctica at its coldest season in some loose winter coats with no supplies.
  • Artistic License – Law: Owning a penguin in New York City is technically illegal, and Mr. Popper was never prosecuted for it.
  • Bowdlerise: A use of the word "spaz" was replaced during production to avoid a 12A rating from the BBFC.
  • The Cat Came Back: Mr. Popper's initial attempts to get rid of the penguin turn out like this.
  • Cool Big Sis: Janie is this to Billy.
  • The Determinator:
    • When Mr. Popper decides to keep the penguins, he doesn't let anything get in his way.
    • He also has the same attitude when it comes to his work.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Mr. Popper begins the movie divorced, but begins to reconnect with his ex-wife during the course of the film.
  • In Name Only: Based on a 1938 children's book of the same name. There are penguins, and a guy named Mr. Popper. The similarities pretty much end there.
  • Inspiration Nod: Mentioning Morgan Freeman's voice. Much of the penguin behavior seems to have been inspired by March of the Penguins.
  • Jerkass/Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Nat Jones; it's clear he only joined the Zoo management for the money since he does not treat his animals with respect, only for money; Jones is willing to do whatever it takes to get the penguins into his zoo for wealth even if it means having to break into Mr. Popper's home to steal them, or ruin Mr. Popper's life.
    • Jones is even willing to ship the penguins separatelyfrom their chicks!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He may be saying it for his own reasons, but Nat Jones is right in saying it's a TERRIBLE idea for someone who knows nothing about penguins to try keeping a bunch of them in his apartment as pets.
  • Let Him Choose: How Popper avoids legal trouble for keeping a bunch of exotic animals as pets. He simply shows the judge that they would rather go with him than the zookeeper. Aided a bit my Mrs. Van Grundy calling the mayor on Mr. Popper's behalf.
  • Mistaken for Brooding: At the end of the movie, Mr. Popper, his ex-wife, and their two kids see that Captain isn't playing with her relatives like the other penguins. They think she's lonely, but actually she has laid a second egg (her previous one never hatched) and is sitting on it.
  • My Greatest Failure: A posthumous letter from Popper Sr. reveals that he realized how absent he was from his son's life and asks that he avoids making the same mistake as he did.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Mentioned during the end credits that the penguins were not harmed, although Jim Carrey had not been so lucky (as shown in the theatrical poster above).
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Nat Jones at first acts like putting the penguins in a zoo is for their well-being, but the truth is he's doing it for personal gain.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: Many times during the film, Mr. Popper is told that he can't raise the penguins in his apartment, although it's by a zookeeper who wants to trade the penguins off to another zoo. In the end, Mr. Popper returns the penguins to their natural habitat.
  • Romantic False Lead: Mr. Popper's ex wife's boyfriend
  • Stop Hitting Yourself: As Nat Jones swings his catchpole, Popper grabs it and pulls it through the bars of the gate and tightens the lasso around Jones' wrists and with the pole, he shoves Nat's hands into his face.
    Popper: Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself? That's not attractive for a zoo official! Huh?!
  • Teens Love Shopping: Mr. Popper cheers up his teenage daughter by taking her out to buy a dress.
  • Two-Timer Date: Subverted — Mr. Popper is expected to meet Mrs. Van Gundy at the restaurant, and arranges a date there with his ex-wife the same evening, and says he plans to "kill two birds with one stone". Instead, he gets wrapped up in conversation with the former Mrs. Popper and completely forgets about Van Gundy. It turns out, though, she heard the whole thing and is far from upset about it — in fact, this is how she knows he cares about more than just success and that he was the same Tommy Popper she remembered coming to the restaurant as a kid.
  • Underwater Fart Gag: Stinky the penguin is named because he farts a lot. At one point, he farts in a tub of icy water.
  • Verbal Tic: Pippi has a preference for words prefaced with a P, concurrently with I Am Very British.
    • At the end, she falls for a man named Quint who does the same thing, but the letter Q instead of P.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Mr. Popper's father was always away on trips and has missed several of his birthdays. Mr. Popper seems to have inherited this trait in the way he treats his own kids, judging by the state of his relationship with them at the beginning.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Three of the six penguins, all assumed to be boys, lay eggs.