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Cinema Blend has the best discussions I’ve seen about when you should pay the extra for the 3D glasses. The factors they consider include whether the movie was filmed in 3D or had the effects added in post-production, whether it minimizes the inevitable dimming, whether it provides a sense of depth, and the “glasses off test.”  The Green Lantern 3D analysis is an excellent example.  Whether you do or don’t like 3D, you’ll appreciate it much more if you check out Cinema Blend’s take before deciding whether to put on the 3D glasses.

It used to be that a comedian who wanted to be in movies had to make an armed services comedy.  Now, we stick them in domestic stories about daddies who need to learn that the family is more important than the office.  Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Tim Allen, Robin Williams, and Jim Carrey have all been, there, some more than once.  Other performers take on movies through this rite of passage: look at Ice Cube’s “Are We There Yet?” and “Are We Done Yet?” or The Rock in “The Game Plan” or “The Tooth Fairy,” or Hulk Hogan in “Mr. Nanny” or Vin Diesel in “The Pacifier.”

Actually, don’t.

As rigidly structured as a limerick, these films also require: crotch hits, potty humor, grumpy bosses, and Daddy working through his own issues before finding that what really matters is family.  Sometimes, as happens here, they appropriate the title of a beloved book and then jettison just about everything else about it.  I’m still hoping for an authentic version of the real-life story “Cheaper by the Dozen,” updating the classic movie version with Clifton Webb. The charming book by Richard and Florence Atwater merits more than a homeopathic speck of a relationship to a movie someday as well.

The book, written in 1938, is the story of a decorator who dreams of adventure and is sent a penguin by an antarctic explorer.  In the movie, Jim Carrey plays the son of an explorer who was never home when he was growing up.  Now in his 40’s, he is the divorced father of two who works so hard for a company that buys beautiful old buildings and tears them down to build new ones that he misses a lot of soccer games and dance recitals.  He very much wants to be a name partner in the firm. If he can make one more big acquisition for the company, it’s his.  The only privately-held space in Central Park is the elegant old restaurant, Tavern on the Green. In real life, it is now closed, but in the movie it is owned by redoutable dowager Mrs. Van Grundy (Angela Lansbury).

And then, a crate is delivered. Mr. Popper’s father has died and he has inherited a penguin, soon followed by five more. Popper tries desperately to get rid of the penguin until his son Billy (Maxwell Perry Cotton) sees them and thinks they are his birthday present. So Popper keeps them as a way to connect to his kids, even though his building does not allow pets and a zealous zookeeper wants to take them away. Various forms of chaos disrupt Popper’s life, interfering with his efforts to persuade Mrs. Van Grundy to sell and the no-pets rule in his apartment building but enhancing his communications with his children and ex-wife. As he scrambles to create an optimal environment for the penguins, his home starts to look more and more like the South Pole. And when three of the penguins lay eggs, it brings out his protective father instincts.

Carrey gets to make faces and do some improvising, which is undeniably fun, and there are some clever lines.  Popper’s son describes his upset middle-school sister as “95 pounds of C4 explosives on a hair trigger.  You’re in the hurt locker now.”  Carrey has some fun with the sillier situations and the lovely Madeline Carroll (Popper’s daughter) is a welcome presence.   The book that inspired it is warmly remembered more than 70 years later.  The movie may not be remembered by the time you get home.

Let’s get right down to it with the superhero essentials checklist.  Cool powers?  Check.  Interesting villain?  Check.  Interesting girlfriend?  Half a check.  Aliens?  Check.  Fancy gala party?  I’m not sure why that appears to be a crucial part of every superhero movie, but it’s here.  Working through some angsty parental issues?  Check.  Special effects and action sequences?  Maybe three-quarters of a check.  Does the superhero outfit avoid looking silly?  Half a check.  Is the 3D worth it?  No check.

Another month, another superhero, this time DC (home of Batman and Superman), not Marvel (home of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor).  Hal Jordan (a very buff Ryan Reynolds) is an irresponsible but irresistible rogue and a test pilot for a company that makes planes for the military.  He has an on- and off relationship with the test pilot/executive daughter of the head of the company, Carol Ferris (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively).  When four members of the intergalactic force for peace and justice — think outer space Seal Team 6 — are killed by a creature who looks like a spider made of smoke, their special green lantern rings seek out the successors.  For the first time, a human is invited to join the Green Lanterns.  The alien dies, telling Hal only that he has to use the ring and lantern and say the oath.  Hal tries the only oaths he can think of — pledge of allegiance, He-Man — before the ring and lantern lights up and he gets it right: “In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!“

It is fun as long as you don’t think too hard.  There’s so much nattering about Will versus Fear that it could have been written by Ayn Rand and directed by Leni Riefenstahl.  (Carol would be right at home with Dominique and Dagny.)  The Lanterns’ power includes calling into being anything they can imagine, which undercuts any peril and dramatic tension in the big confrontations.  It makes the struggle internal, one of strategic imagination and determination, not the best idea for a big special effects film.  The bad guys include a nerdy scientist whose exposure to the evil smoke-spider turns him into a misshapen, anger- and jealousy-driven madman, and the smoke-spider, whose surprising connection to the Lanterns makes him even more dangerous. But it seems unfocused, overly fussy and most likely re-cut following a poor reaction to an earlier version — characters like Hal’s nephew and best friend are introduced and then disappear and Angela Bassett barely appears as a scientist.  Mark Strong is a skeptical alien with a ridiculous mustache and even more ridiculous dialog, and the elders look like first-draft Yodas.  And everybody has father issues.  What, no one has a father who’s present and supportive? Aren’t there any mothers left?  Reynolds does fine as Hal but Lively never lives up to her name, swanning around in elegant sheaths and high heels but without any of the wit or energy of Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.  The credit sequence ends with a sneak peek at the villain for the next episode.  Let’s hope they have the will to call up something a little more fearless next time.

It took 2000 hours and almost a quarter million bricks!