by Randall Allen Dunn
Mr. Thom Popper (Jim Carrey) has a particular problem: a package of penguins has been deposited on his doorstep. Perplexed, he ultimately perceives that this is the prize his estranged father promised to send him. Popper’s perambulatory pop traveled the world, leaving his son in the lurch as he neglected to return home, or return calls on their ham radio.
As an adult, Mr. Popper purchases properties, but fails to perceive how his habits of perpetual neglect have prevented him from connecting with his own estranged wife, Amanda (Carla Gugino), and his two children, Janie (Madeline Carroll) and Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton). While Popper peruses recipes for parboiling the six pesky penguins, his ex-wife and kids pop in to party for Billy’s birthday, and Popper pretends that the penguins are Billy’s perfect surprise present.
Meanwhile, Popper plans to become partner of his real estate firm by promising to prevail upon Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury) to finally permit him to purchase Tavern on the Green, a posh restaurant that Popper used to visit with his dad while Popper was still just a peanut. Despite its sentimental appeal for him personally, Popper agrees to provide the place to his firm so they can plant their own properties on it.
But the penguins have preoccupied all of Popper’s time, rendering his purchasing plans powerless, even with the aid of his perfect personal assistant, Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond), who likes to pronounce words with lots of ‘P’s.
As Popper’s children warm up to him once more, actually preferring to spend the night at his apartment, Popper becomes profoundly passionate toward the six penguins – and toward his ex-wife, Amanda, all over again. He produces a new floorplan for his apartment, providing snow and ice for the penguin pack, and becomes even more preoccupied with them upon learning that a few of them are pregnant.
His employers pop in, prepared to stop the proceedings at Popper’s apartment. Upon seeing how possessive and obsessive Popper has become with his penguins, they pluck him from his position. But Popper purports that all of their efforts at the office are pointless if they ignore the most precious things in life. “Some things are just too important to miss,” he pronounces, as he waits patiently for the last egg to hatch.
When it doesn’t, Popper is perplexed and deeply disappointed. He provides the local zoo with his personal pets, hoping they will prove to be better parents to the pack.
But Popper’s children are puzzled by the penguins’ disappearance, especially when Popper poo-poo’s their complaints and proclaims a return to reality, preparing to pursue his purchase of properties once more. He purposes to never again pin his hopes on eggs that refuse to hatch and only prove disappointing.
Plucking a letter from the place it had fallen off of the package crate, Popper peruses it to find a penned apology from his papa, with the hopes that this present of lovable pet penguins can make up for all the lost years. Popper pre-empts his plans, making the rescue of his penguins top priority. Transporting his family to the zoo, Popper learns the pack is being prepared for shipment to various locations, parceled out in exchange for premium tropical animals to populate the zoo in the penguins’ place. Popper springs the purloined penguins from their prison and peels away in his limousine. He interrupts Mrs. Van Gundy’s press conference with a plea for her to keep possession of her restaurant. But spotting how Popper has put his family back together and protected the penguins, Van Gundy sells the restaurant to Popper instead, recognizing him as the young boy who often appeared at the restaurant, and now perceives that he still holds to the principles he prized as a child. Surprising his real estate partners, Popper proclaims that they can’t purchase the property, as he purposes to renovate the restaurant and re-open it.
He then reports to his former family that he plans to depart for a long, long trip … and promptly insists they accompany him. Arriving in Antarctica, they point the penguins in the path of their penguin families, planning to return for visits, having put their own family back together.
Papas aren’t perfect. When they prove themselves incompetent in prioritizing their families, then their families lose their faith and stability in life. After all, if their pop couldn’t put his pathetic life together, why should anyone else purpose to do it?
But some papas, after slipping and plopping in a pile of mud, prove they can stand upright and make another attempt. They prompt themselves to remember the point of being a father, to protect and provide for their children the way a penguin gives top priority to a hatching egg. To push away the things that distract and prevent them from fulfilling their purposes, to do all they can to lead their offspring safely into the primitive-minded planet, as productive members of society.
Being a papa – or a parent – is no picnic, and plenty of parents will disappoint their impressionable offspring. But papas must push their own pride and pursuit of pleasure aside and purpose to press on. It’s a parenting skill that all fathers must develop, if they ever hope to teach their children to spread their wings and fly.
Happy Father’s Day!
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Thursday, May 31st, 2012