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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Mr. Popper's Penguins

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jim Carrey stars in a scene from the movie "Mr. Popper's Penguins."
Have you ever wondered, in your idle moments, what it might be like to keep six pet penguins in a swanky New York City apartment? Well, of course you have.

Thankfully, the long-overdue answer to that burning question is provided by the routine, but generally kid-friendly comedy "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (Fox).

The birds in question arrive on the high-rise doorstep of work-obsessed Manhattan real estate developer Tom Popper (Jim Carrey) by way of a bequest from his recently deceased father, a world traveler and arctic explorer.

As the opening scenes have shown us, Popper senior was not tops as a pop, and his neglectful ways have carried forward to the next generation resulting in the breakup of Tom's marriage to ex-wife Amanda (Carla Gugino) and frayed ties to teen daughter Janie (Madeline Carroll) and young son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton).

Initially, Tom regards his unasked-for new companions as nothing but a nuisance—one of the funnier sequences concerns his vain efforts to identify some part of the Gotham bureaucracy willing to take them off his hands—and their antics threaten a vital deal he has going to purchase the Central Park landmark Tavern on the Green from its matriarchal owner Mrs. Van Gundy (Angela Lansbury).

But, this being Hollywood, Tom eventually bonds with the unruly creatures and they foster a change in his outlook. (Another enjoyable moment: The as-yet-unreformed Tom wakes up after a weekend of boredom away from the office to declare: "Monday, thank God!")

Though gooey with guano, director Mark Waters' loose adaptation of Richard and Florence Atwater's Newbery award-winning 1939 children's classic is otherwise unproblematic. And its hopeful theme of marital reconciliation between Tom and Amanda—a potential reunion egged on, of course, by their youngsters—will gratify viewers committed to scriptural values.

A stray, thoroughly out-of-place mention of Viagra, which may represent a misguided attempt to keep parents amused, is of course less welcome. But, that fleeting element in Sean Anders, John Morris and Jared Stern's script aside, "Mr. Popper's Penguins" registers as a mostly pleasant distraction for undemanding tots.

The film contains several scatological sight gags, a single adult reference and at least one mild oath. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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