An update of a classic children's book waddles onto screens.
By Kevin B. Lee
Published: June 16, 2011
HAPPY FEET Carrey dances with his avian friends.
Photo By: Twentieth Century Fox
It’s a marvel 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 does take liberties with the source. Mr. Popper has gone from a humble house painter to a divorced Donald Trump–wanna-be (Carrey) whose deceased globetrotter dad mysteriously bequeaths him a tuxedoed feathered friend. A subsequent mishap brings the waddle 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, but here it’s the birds who teach Carrey belated lessons in caring for family and fowl alike.
While the story is formula cornball, director Waters sells it confidently, handling the unruly penguins as amiably as he handled Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday and Mean Girls. The flock’s floppety antics are hard to resist, thanks to a seamless blend of live action and CGI, plus the innate anthropomorphic charms of these avian pals. (The movie scores easy off their fascination with Charlie Chaplin.) In a remarkably game performance, Carrey holds his own, less through his famous physicality than his wit; he works clever asides into underwritten scenes. Without him as comic ringleader, the movie would just be for the birds.