Today’s Prayer Focus

Mr. Popper's Penguins

MPA Rating: PG-Rating (MPA) for mild rude humor and some language.

Reviewed by: Patty Moliterno

Moral Rating: Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:
Primary Audience: Kids Family Teens Adults
Genre: Family Comedy
Length: 1 hr. 35 min.
Year of Release: 2011
USA Release: June 17, 2011 (wide—3,200+ theaters)
DVD: December 6, 2011
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Penguin coloring page

animals in the Bible

Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring Jim CarreyMr. Popper
Carla GuginoAmanda
Angela LansburyMrs. Van Gundy
Ophelia Lovibond … Pippi
Madeline Carroll … Janie
Clark GreggNat Jones
Jeffrey TamborMr. Gremmins
See all »
Director Mark Waters
Producer Centro Digital Pictures Ltd.
Davis Entertainment
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
See all »
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
20th Century Studios
, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company

As a young boy in the 1970s, Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) eagerly jumped out of bed every time the ham radio would signal that his father was on the other end. He rarely saw his father, but we watch as his father tells of his latest adventure through the radio. As an adult, Popper is a real estate developer who lives for the next major acquisition. He doesn’t have much time for his kids, Janie and Billy (Madeline Carroll and Maxwell Perry Cotton) or even a life outside the real estate world in which he works. When he does try to be a father, he fails miserably.

Popper receives a penguin after his father’s death, and, a few days later, another box arrives with 5 more penguins. His children love the penguins and erroneously believe that they are a birthday present for Billy. Popper is so grateful for the attention from his kids, that he agrees to keep the penguins.

Keeping the penguins proves costly to Popper as he tries to purchase the Tavern on the Green Restaurant in Central Park. It is owned by Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury), and all Popper has to do is convince her to sell and he can finally be partner in the firm. Mrs. Van Gundy, Popper’s ex-wife (Carla Gugino), and 6 adorable penguins all play a part in helping him finally realize the important things in life.

I read this book as a child, about 35 years ago; I read it again to some of my children about 10 years ago; I recently read it to my youngest children a few months ago. I love the book and Mr. Popper. If you are expecting any resemblance to the book, you will be disappointed. The only similarities to the book are penguins, and some names (Popper, Captain, Bill and Janie).

Possible objectionable content

The penguins’ names include (besides Captain), Stinky, Lovey, Loudy, Bitey and Nimrod. Stinky gets his name because he passes gas intentionally toward a person and also poops on Popper’s shoe. Popper is hit in the crotch with a soccer ball. A zoo keeper is hit in the face several times, while Tom says, “Why are you hitting yourself?”. The phrase “who gives a rat’s butt?” is used. Popper picks up the penguins, and you see them poop in the toilet. Popper holds his chest and makes references to his nipples being cold. The word “freakin” is used.

God’s name is taken in vain. Tom prays with his penguins before dinner, thanking God for the meal and asking for protection over the ice caps. There are a few references to “sexy.” A Vanilla Ice song playing at the end does have some swear words.

Tom Popper lies constantly throughout the movie. He also pays a bribe so he can keep the penguins in his apartment.

There are some cute scenes involving Jim Carrey dancing with the penguins and the penguins watching television. The release of this movie over Father’s Day weekend should mean that fathers go see it with their children, and maybe some fathers will learn a lesson or two. Tom Popper learns how to communicate with his children and listen to them. There are additional lessons, such as forgiving yourself and others and letting go of disappointments.

Mr. Popper learns about love from his penguins, who bond with him and seek him out even when he is far from them. Likewise, God continually seeks after the lost.

Luke 15:4-6 — “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’.”

This is a cute children’s movie, but please understand that this movie is not the classic Mr. Popper’s Penguins. Your children will like it, and it will entertain. My recommendation is to spend some quality time playing with your children and wait until a rainy day to see this modern day adaptation.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I saw this movie with my wife and two teenagers, 17 and 19, and we all enjoyed it. I think that should be a sign to movie makers that people are willing to see good movies that are at least reasonable morally. Oddly, too, the vast majority in our viewing were adults.

I have not read the book in a long time, so I cannot remember how close the movie is to the story. There is a broken family and rude kids, but that leaves an opportunity for redemption. You see that Mr. Popper was repeating the sins of his father, so that chain needed to be broken. I thought Jim Carrey slipped into Ace Ventura mode a few too many times. Other than that, we found it very funny.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
Wesley, age 47 (USA)
Positive—Adorable!! I don’t know how many times I said “awwww” during this movie! Laughed out loud numerous times. I would take my 5 yr old grand-daughter to see this and look forward to my baby grandson being old enough to see it! Only bad word I caught was an “oh my god” very close to the beginning. I didn’t notice any other cursing and was listening for it, though not note-taking.

I think 3-7 yr olds would would be bored at times when the movie is focusing on the family and business plots going on, but there are many scenes with the cute penguins. About 9 and up, this movie is perfect! A dad is learning to put time with his family first, a young teen is learning to put down her iPhone and communicate with those around her, a separated couple are reminded why they first loved each other.

Lots of good stuff in this movie… and adorable penguins! Thank you Jim Carey!! This is a gift!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Ann, age 51 (USA)
Positive—We took our two preschool granddaughters to this movie. It is not like the book, but still a fun movie which captivated them. The parents were separated or divorced, but the coming together of the family at the end brought tears to our eyes. All in all, we had an enjoyable experience.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Grandma, age 58 (USA)
Positive—This is a cute movie. Jim Carey was funny, as usual, and I liked the positive messages about family, especially when it showed a couple working through their problems and falling in love again after a divorce. There were a few poop jokes, but not NEARLY as many as there usually are in this type of movie. Big fans of the book probably won’t like all the changes that were made to the story, but I didn’t mind them, because I was never very attached to the book.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Cherie Williams, age 19 (USA)
Positive—So enjoyed this movie. Jim Carey was on his “best behavior.” Went with two teenagers, and we laughed (almost cried) and talked about it for two days after. I understand it is “different” than the book, however I never read the book. I highly recommend this movie… the penguins were amazing! The story exciting—and lovely to see everyone living happily ever after!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Kimberly, age 40 (USA)
Positive—This is as good as it gets today, so far as mainstream cinema is concerned. I really enjoyed the film—but then I dote on animals. Whilst there are a number of objectionable aspects, they are outweighed by the positive aspects of the film, which deal in a way consistent with Christianity with the importance of putting family first.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Blue, age 53 (Australia)
Neutral—This movie was just ok. The story in the book is so cute, that we went in with the assumption that it would resemble the classic story at least a little bit. Nope. It was a typical Hollywood movie… made for children, but of course, lots of little liberal jabs. I wouldn’t watch it again, but it wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen. I was just mostly disappointed that they had to modernize the storyline away from the wonderful book.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
Carrie, age 32 (USA)
Negative—We took our children to see “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” today largely because two of them just read the book. Sadly the only thing the movie has in common with the book is that the penguins are returned home in the end. God’s name is used in vain multiple times throughout the movie, kids telling their parents to “shut-up” and a teenage girl with boyfriend issues. The family is also separated with Mom seeing another guy—not sure if they were divorced or separated- but my kids thought it was very confusing!

If you are starved for entertainment this movie would probably satisfy. However, Christ died for the sins that people commit in this movie, and we pay to be entertained by it. Please use your good judgment—God’s name in vain alone makes this movie a no-go! God bless!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
B. Chambers, age 39 (South Africa)
Negative—The Lord’s name taken in vain by adults and the children. Disrespectful children. Buddha’s image worn on a T-shirt (subtle, but it is in there, because the world thinks it is “cool”).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Mira, age 43 (USA)
Negative—The name of our Lord and Savior is used as a cuss word on many occasions. There are sexual innuendos. My Holy Spirit grieved watching it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Frank Morrison, age 40 (USA)
Negative—I left this movie very close to the beginning. After watching only about 20 minutes of the film, its obvious that the main character is a liar, a vow-breaker (divorced), a manipulator, and a blasphemer. The book of Proverbs gives plenty of warning that if you sit in the presence of a fool, you will become like him. Church—Have some discernment? God says “Be holy, for I am holy” and “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. If you’re serious about your love and commitment to Jesus Christ, avoid this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: none
Frank S., age 52 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Though Jim Carrey won’t be winning any awards from this movie, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” won’t fail in entertaining the family during a lazy afternoon.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Emshemie, age 13 (USA)
Positive—I found this movie very cute. It was funny and enjoyable. But I think that the directors tried to make this film too funny (in one scene, Mr. Popper holds the penguins over the toilet, so they can poop). Other than that, good movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
Sophia, age 12 (USA)