Mr. Popper's Penguins (film)

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For the book of the same name, see Mr. Popper's Penguins.
Mr. Popper's Penguins
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark Waters
Produced by John Davis
Screenplay by Sean Anders
John Morris
Jared Stern
Based on Mr. Popper's Penguins 
by Richard Atwater
Florence Atwater
Music by Rolfe Kent
Cinematography Florian Ballhaus
Edited by Bruce Green
Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 17, 2011 (2011-06-17)
Running time 94 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $55 million[1]
Box office $187,361,754 [2]

Mr. Popper's Penguins is a 2011 American comedy family film directed by Mark Waters, and starring Jim Carrey. It was loosely based on the children's book of the same name. The film was originally slated for a release on August 12, 2011, but was moved up to June 17, 2011.[3]


Thomas "Tom" Popper (Jim Carrey) is a divorced real estate entrepreneur whose father traveled to many far places around the world during his childhood. When he gets home to his apartment, he learns that his father has passed away during an adventure to Antarctica. Popper is called to his lawyer who tells him his father's last will asks for his son to be given a souvenir from his last adventure. The next week a crate containing a gentoo penguin (Captain) shows up at his doorstep. After the penguin annoys him Mr. Popper tries to send the penguin back to the crew of Captain Popper. Eventually, due to a miscommunication with a crewmember of Captain Popper on the telephone, more penguins arrive (Bitey, Stinky, Lovey, Nimrod, and Loudy), bringing the total to six. Popper initially intends to donate the penguins to a pest control of some sort, but changes his mind when his children, Janie Popper and Billy Popper (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton), think that the penguins are Billy's birthday present. That night Mr. Popper meets with New York Zookeeper Nat Jones (Clark Gregg), who asks Mr. Popper for the penguins, having been tipped off by Popper's assistant for a pest problem. Popper tries to stall him by asking him to collect the penguins another time. Jones agrees but not before warning that the conditions in Popper's apartment are not good enough to raise penguins. Popper is forced to pay the board of his apartment to keep the penguins with him in his apartment home and lie to his arrogant neighbor Kent (David Krumholtz) about there being no animals in his home.

At work, Popper is given the task of buying Tavern on the Green, an old restaurant where he used to eat with his father as a child, with the intent of tearing it down and building a new development in its place. However, its elderly owner, Selma Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), will only sell it to someone who she deems a person of true value. Popper has two unsuccessful meetings with her, and explaining his business methods she refuses to sell it to him, leaving Popper to be rushed by his bosses to make sure the company gets the tavern. Having the penguins around helps Popper to become closer to his children. He also begins dating their mother, Amanda Popper (Carla Gugino), again, and for the first time his children are happy to stay nights with him. The penguins eventually lay three eggs. Two of the eggs hatch and one doesn’t. Popper becomes so obsessed with seeing the last egg hatch, losing his job in the process when he angers his bosses for not focusing on the tavern for them.

Jones sneaks in the apartment one night when becoming impatient with Popper and after an argument with Popper, warns him in frustration that penguins can only survive in the cold or zoo and vows to get the penguins sometime; as a result Popper puts snow in his apartment, and lowers his temperature for the penguins.

After a few days of waiting for the egg, upon realizing from Jones that the egg can’t be hatched, Popper feels he is not capable of raising the penguins and reluctantly donates them to Jones for the New York zoo. He then is re-hired by his bosses, and refocuses his attention on purchasing the Tavern on the Green. His children and ex-wife, are disappointed by his decision. The next day his ex-wife prepares to go to Africa for three weeks with her boyfriend Rick who takes an interest in Popper, and leave the kids in his care. When preparing for the next press conference to sell the tavern, Popper drops his keys and finds a lost letter from his father, which had been delivered with the first penguin, Captain.

In it, his father tells him to hold his children close and love them, just as this penguin would love him. Having a change of heart, Popper asks his children and ex-wife to help him get the penguins back from the zoo before the press conference at the tavern and before his ex-wife goes to Africa.

Popper and his family interrogate Jones about the penguins, but Jones claims that the penguins were separated and traded to other zoos as planned. Immediately after that Popper finds that Jones is lying about them having done it already, with help from the shouting penguin named Loudy. He frees the penguins from a cooler in the office and locks Jones inside when he attempts to recapture the penguins by holding up a raw fish for them. When preparing to escape, Popper and his family notice that Jones has managed to escape and security guards are looking everywhere for them. While taking a shortcut through a gift shop, Captain is separated from the group when he gets tangled in a kite, chased by two guards, escapes onto the roof. Popper asks his assistant Pippy to create a distraction so that Popper and his family can escape. Captain falls off the roof of the gift shop, and with the help of the kite, finally gets her chance to fly. Popper and his family manage to escape with the penguins and flee to the tavern with Jones in pursuit on a golf-cart.

Upon seeing how Popper had reunited his family and rescued the penguins, Van Gundy agrees to sell him the restaurant saying that her desire to know what he is worth, was a test to make sure the boy (Popper) sitting with his father at her restaurant years ago, wasn't lost. But rather than tear it and the park down as once planned, Popper orders that the restaurant be renovated and reopened. Immediately after Van Gundy makes the deal with Popper, Jones arrives with the police to arrest Popper for theft of the penguins. After explaining the story in front of the crowd and police, the officers agree to spare Popper from prison if they determine by test who the penguins love. Jones holds up a sardine for the penguins thinking they love fish more than Popper, but the penguins go to Popper much to Jones's dismay. The crowd applauds for Popper and when Jones grows hysterical about attempts to getting Popper arrested for the zoo break in, the touched police officers arrest Jones instead. While he is legally in the right, Van Gundy is able to protect Mr. Popper from arrest due to her friendship with New York's Mayor thus leaving Popper back in custody of the penguins.

Popper and his family travel to Antarctica with the penguins, allowing them to live with their own kind and promising to visit on occasions. Popper's first penguin, Captain, is revealed to have laid another egg. Popper tells his children that they'll have to come back and visit when the baby, who he named Bald Eagle (after the code name he used for his father), is born. He then concludes by saying "Thanks Captain. You're the coolest gift I have ever gotten."



Originally, Ben Stiller was supposed to play Mr. Popper, and Noah Baumbach was originally going to direct, but they dropped out. Owen Wilson, Jack Black, and Jim Carrey were all considered to replace Stiller, with the role eventually going to Carrey.[4] Mark Waters was chosen to direct. Filming began in October 2010 and finished in January 2011.[citation needed]

On September 21, 2010, it was confirmed that Carla Gugino joined the cast as Tom's ex-wife Amanda Popper.[5]

Rhythm and Hues Studios did the penguin animations for certain shots.[citation needed].

The musical score was ambitious, with music playing nearly throughout. It was written by Rolfe Kent, and orchestrated by Tony Blondal. It was recorded at the scoring stage at 20th Century Fox in Century City, Ca. with a 78 piece orchestra.

An online Museum Slide Game created by designer Mark Kavanaugh as promotional material for the film is still accessible.[6]


Box office[edit]

The film earned $6.4 million on opening day and $18.4 million over the three-day weekend, ranking in third place behind Green Lantern and Super 8. The opening was at the high end of 20th Century Fox's expectations, which was predicting a mid to high teens opening. In its second weekend, the film faced competition from Cars 2 and dropped 45% to $10.1 million and ranked in fifth place. Over the four-day Independence Day holiday weekend, it ranked in eighth place after dropping 34% to $6.7 million. The film has earned $68,224,452 domestically and $119,137,302 in foreign countries, grossing a total of $187,361,754 worldwide.

Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 48%, based on 136 reviews, as of August 2012. The site's consensus reads "Blandly inoffensive and thoroughly predictable, Mr. Popper's Penguins could have been worse—but it should have been better." [7]

Home media[edit]

Mr. Popper's Penguins was released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 6, 2011. It includes a short film called Nimrod and Stinky's Antarctic Adventure.


On August 7, 2011, writers Damien DeCarlo and Bruce Gifford were hired to write a sequel.[citation needed] Their script was later rewritten by Dwayne Pollard and Mike Bridges starting on August 19, 2012.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Kaufman, Amy (16 June 2011). "Movie Projector: Costly 'Green Lantern' hopes to shine in its box office debut". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Chitwood, Adam (16 December 2010). "First Set Photos of Jim Carrey in MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS". Collider. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  4. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (22 June 2010). "Ben Stiller Drops out of 'Mr. Poppers Penguins,' Jim Carrey, Jack Black & Owen Wilson Eyeing Lead Role". The Playlist. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Tyler, Josh (21 September 2010). "Carla Gugino Joins Mr. Popper's Penguins And Might Do Something Good After All". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Kavanaugh, Mark. "Museum Slide Game". Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 

External links[edit]