A couple of weeks ago, in a Nerd Living blog about the movies we’ve been looking forward to seeing this summer, I extolled the virtues of the Green Lantern movie, which had not yet been released.
Umm, it’s possible I overstated my case.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it. My oldest kid and I went to the matinee one Saturday, and by then my expectations were pretty low. It has green flashy stuff, cool glimpses of the Green Lantern Corps — and, unfortunately, a plot that’s all over the map.
Green Lantern is outshone by all things, a different movie that I saw on Friday evening — Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
Or is it a different movie at all? Let’s compare:
A missing father: As a boy, Hal Jordan witnesses his father, a test pilot, die horrifically as his plane catches fire and explodes. Tom Popper Jr. grows up knowing his own father mostly as a voice on the wireless radio as Tom Popper Sr. travels the globe in search of adventure.
A life unfulfilled: Hal Jordan has spent his life running from responsibility. He’s good at his job — if you don’t count crashing multi-million dollar test jets, and he can’t seem to maintain a romantic relationship, not even with the beautiful, smart, talented Carol Ferris. Mr. Popper is always running to responsibility, at least of the work variety, and thus misses important anniversaries, birthdays, soccer games, dance recitals and so on. He can’t maintain a romantic relationship with his wife, the smart, beautiful, talented, ex-Mrs. Popper.
An unexpected gift: Hal Jordan receives his powerful lantern and ring from the dying alien Abin Sur. Naturally, Jordan doesn’t know why the ring has chosen him or how to use it. Tom Popper receives his gift in his father’s last will and testament, and it’s delivered to him in a box. It’s a penguin. That’s swiftly followed by another wooden crate with several more penguins. Mr. Popper doesn’t know what to do until he discovers the power of shuffle ball step, shuffle ball lunge, step ball change, step ball change.
Gross things will happen: In Green Lantern, the troubled scientist Hector Hammond is exposed to an alien substance, gains new powers and grows an incredibly large, disgusting head. Also, he starts to look more sweaty. This is played for horror. In Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the gross-out factor is penguin guano. This is played for laughs.
Hitting our hero in sensitive places, repeatedly: In Green Lantern, it’s Kilowog, the drill sergeant of the Green Lantern Corps. In Mr. Popper, it’s a soccer ball.
Ancient and wise, and refusing to panic: In Green Lantern, it’s the little blue Guardians of the Universe. In Mr. Popper, it’s Angela Lansbury.
Flying high in the friendly skies: Without spoiling the endings, let’s just say Green Lantern makes airplanes out of the green energy in his ring to do something important — and Captain, the flightless penguin, uses a kite to do something very important.
Embracing destiny: The ring, the Guardians of the Universe and the fact that Earth seems doomed to certain annihilation if he doesn’t act fast all motivate Hal Jordan to man up and seize the day. Six penguins seize Mr. Popper’s heart and make him embrace his family.