It's remarkable that it's taken 83 years for Richard and Florence Atwater's grade-school mainstay to hit the big screen, though this charming Hollywood update takes several liberties with the source. Mr. Popper has gone from a humble house-painter to a divorced Donald Trump wanna-be (Carrey), whose deceased globe-trotter dad mysteriously bequeaths him a tuxedoed feathered friend. A subsequent mishap brings the gaggle to six, but before Popper can ship them out, his two kids insist on keeping them. The original Popper tried to train his penguins for show business; here, it's the birds who teach Carrey belated lessons in caring for family and fowl alike.
While the story is formula cornball, director Mark Waters sells it confidently, handling the unruly antarctic denizens as amiably as he handled Lindsay Lohan in his Freaky Friday remake and Mean Girls. The flock's floppety shenanigans are hard to resist, thanks to a seamless blend of live action and CGI, as well as the innate anthropomorphic charms of Carrey's waddling buddies (the movie easily takes advantage of their ability to ape Charlie Chaplin). Carrey holds his own with a remarkably game performance, less through his famous physicality than his wit, working clever asides into underwritten scenes. Without this comic ringleader, Mr. Popper's Penguins would just be for the birds.
Watch the trailer