Mr. Popper’s Penguins

June 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury
Directed by: Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”)
Written by: Sean Anders (“Hot Tub Time Machine”), John Morris (“Hot Tub Time Machine”), Jared Stern (debut)

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins” is poppycock – a poorly prepared picture packed with pleasantries for the pipsqueaks and pathetic puns for parents who are paying the painful price.

Alliteration aside, “Penguins” is a family film based on a children’s book from the 1930s written by Richard and Florence Atwater. Jim Carrey (“Yes Man”) stars as title character Mr. Popper, a real estate businessman who is left a plethora of penguins by his estranged explorer father who has recently passed away.

On deadline to complete a very important real estate deal, Mr. Popper is forced to bird-sit a set of six penguins who he deems his childrens’ pets when they come over for a visit with his ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino).

For whatever reason, everyone seems nonchalant about everything the penguins do from the moment they take over Popper’s apartment. Not much makes sense in “Penguins” for people over the age of seven. It’s harmless drivel for Carrey who phones in his performance and proves he can still collect a paycheck by putting a pothole in his comedy résumé the size of the Arctic Circle.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas
Directed by: Mark Waters (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”)
Written by: Jon Lucas (“Four Christmases”) and Scott Moore (“Four Christmases”)

What do you get when you cross a classic holiday story like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with a nauseating romantic comedy? With Matthew McConaughey playing a character as cynical as any rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge over the last 150 years, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” can’t find enough enchanting moments and depth to make it worth any kind of homage to the late literary icon.

In “Ghosts,” McConaughey is Connor Mead, an arrogant bachelor photographer who knows a lot about sex and little about women although he’s bedded his fair share of them in his life. An unbeliever of love and monogamy, Connor drags himself to his little brother’s wedding where he is reunited with his childhood crush Jenny Perotti (Jennifer Garner) whose heart Connor had broken years before.

Connor’s past, however, soon catches up to him when his deceased Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), the man that raised him and taught him everything about dating and dumping women, tells him that he will be visited by three ghosts who will take him on a journey through the relationships of his past, present, and future.

It’s an interesting idea done way better (and without ghosts) in “High Fidelity” when John Cusack revisiting his old flames to find out why he is still single after so many years. In “Ghosts,” McConaughey doesn’t really change throughout these life-altering moments. Even when he meet his final ghost, the Ghost of Girlfriends Future, an incredibly attractive blond spirit, Connor still tries to make a move on her even though he just relived half of his life and saw the mistakes he had made. Isn’t the point supposed to be that he learns to be a better all-around person?

Still, the transformation from sleazebag to gentleman is miraculously completed with a little shove by screenwriting partners Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who scripted the unfunny “Four Christmases” at the end of last year. Here, McConaughey’s cinematic reputation precedes itself. It’s the kind of movie he was born to star in, which, in the last eight or so years, hasn’t been a real positive statement to make.

The Spiderwick Chronicles

February 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte
Directed by: Mark Waters (“Mean Girls”)
Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick (“Charlotte’s Web”), David Berenbaum (“Elf”), John Sayles (“Lone Star”)

Ever since the first “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” hit the big screen in 2001, fantasy films have become an essential piece of the studio’s movie arsenal. From the smaller-scale “The Brothers Grimm,” “The Bridge to Terabethia,” and “Ella Enchanted” to blockbusters like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” imaginative escapism at the theater is easy to find these days.

Enter the newest film to the genre, “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” which is based on the book of the same name by Tony DiTerizzi and Holly Black. The film follows three siblings (Freddy Highmore plays twin brothers Jared and Simon Grace), who move with their mother (Parker) into a creepy house known as the Spiderwick Estates.

Of course, there’s more to the home than a few dusty corners and eerie hallways. The estate holds a secret that stems back to the original owner himself Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn, who performs his classy scenes through some nicely scattered flashbacks). When Simon discovers a mysterious book called “Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You” he ignores the warning on the front cover that advises him not to read it.

Reminiscent of the game board in “Jumanji,” the book unleashes a host of creatures from another realm, including brownies, goblins, and faeries. There is also darker forces like Mulgarath (played by Nick Nolte), who wants to get a hold of the book for the powers it possesses. Also part of the noteworthy characters are Martin Short (“The Santa Clause 3”), who lends his voice as the bipolar Thimbletack and Seth Rogan (“Knocked Up”), who is a perfect fit for the voice of the piggish Hogsqueal (pictured above).

Highmore does a fine job playing both the Goofus and Gallant-type roles while some very impressive special effects allow both boys to react to each other and the make-believe world around them. Although Highmore is already 15 years old, he doesn’t seem to have hit that unfortunate mark in a child actor’s career (a la Haley Joel Osment of ‘The Sixth Sense”) where his or her face contorts into an unattractive, adolescent mutant. Highmore still has an innocent façade, which will keep him fresh for more role in this genre. He’s already been in a handful (“Finding Neverland,” “The Golden Compass,” “The Mists of Avalon,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Arthur and the Invisibles,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”).

Rich with creativity, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” is fun and whimsical although at times much scarier than its PG rating would have you believe. Still, even if your five-year-old is watching through his or her fingers, the family adventure should leave an impression for kids and adults alike.