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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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