Noah Baumbach & Ben Stiller Adapting Mr. Popper's Penguins?
by Alex Billington
April 1, 2010
I'm sure many, many of you are familiar with the Newbery Award Winning children's book Mr. Popper's Penguins. I remember spending an entire month on this in 3rd grade! That's exactly why I'm part excited, part nervous, about this. Variety reports that filmmaker Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and actor Ben Stiller are considering teaming up again for this new adaptation of Richard & Florence Atwater's book about a house painter who ends up caring for some 12 performing penguins. Baumbach and Stiller last worked together on the Focus Features film Greenberg, which is currently playing in theaters now. Read on!
Mr. Popper's Penguins, published in 1938, is about a man who receives a penguin from an Arctic explorer one day. He then gets a female penguin from the zoo and shazam, he ends up with 12 of the tuxedo-wearin' birds. When the penguins start to eat him out of house and home, Mr. Popper forms Popper's Performing Penguins, a stage act that goes on tour and causes mayhem at every stop. My first thought - why isn't Wes Anderson directing this as a stop-motion animated movie instead? Maybe I've still got Fantastic Mr. Fox on my brain, I just don't want this to become an Alvin and the Chipmunks redux with dancing penguins.
Variety says that Baumbach is definitely in talks to direct this at 20th Century Fox. Stiller is also "in talks," but not signed on at all. Obviously they're probably still chatting it up after the release of Greenberg, but it takes a while to get everything down on paper. The trade also calls it a "kiddie pic" so I don't think we can expect a finely crafted adaptation like Fantastic Mr. Fox, this sounds like it's leaning much more towards the Alvin and the Chipmunks side of things. Who would've thought that damn movie would cause children's movies to never be the same again? As much nostalgia as I have for this book, I don't have high hopes for this adaptation yet. Though we can't forget Baumbach did help co-write Fantastic Mr. Fox. Optimistic?