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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Mr. Popper's Penguins

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Imagine if you were an only child and your father was seldom at home because he was wandering the earth looking for adventure. He would call or write, but eventually as you grew up, you almost forgot him.

This is the case of Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey). He is a hotshot Manhattan real estate broker with an assistant Pippi (Ophelia Lovibond) speaks with words that mostly begin with the letter “p”.  Mr. Popper and his wife Amanda (Carla Giugno) are divorced.  Their two children love their dad, but “Popper” as they all call him, is not very good at family life.

One day a crate is delivered to Mr. Popper’s condo and inside is a Gentoo penguin. Through a misunderstanding, five more arrive in the next crate. Popper doesn’t have permission to have pets and penguins are not meant to be in a New York condo, so a series of misadventures ensue that are pretty funny.

The film is based on the 1938 children’s classic by Richard and Florence Atwater. I have not read the book, but others who have say this film version is just not the same. Certainly it has been updated to reflect the social mores of today. Also, the film correctly places these penguins in Antarctica rather than the North Pole – there is no evidence that any penguins have colonized north of the equator.

Besides the film’s silly physical comedy, Angela Lansbury plays the owner of the Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Popper is supposed to convince her to sell it, but she will only sell to a person of character. Popper has a lot of growing up to do to meet her standards.

I often wonder if it is right to capture animals for zoos or to use wild animals in films and circuses for our entertainment. The American Humane Society http://americanhumaneblog.org/2011/06/the-real-star-of-mr-poppers-penguins-jim-carrey-or-the-gentoo/ gave “Mr. poppers Penguins” a “There were no animals harmed” rating of  “outstanding”.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this as guidance: “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct to them the affection due only to persons.” (CCC #2418)

Actually, the Poppers get it right. But filmmakers and others who remove animals from their natural habitats for our entertainment, have some explaining to do.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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