While “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” will arrive in theaters this weekend with Jim Carrey doing his familiar rubber face schtick, you might remember that at one point “Greenberg” duo Noah Baumbach and Ben Stiller were going to reteam on the film. Unfortunately, they both wound up dropping out but their work survived and when current director Mark Waters was first circling the project he was sent the script they put together. It was pretty out there, and he didn’t get it at all.
“I know that Noah and Ben were a constellation that was floating around the movie before I came onboard,” Waters recently told EW. “And to be completely honest it was a script that I had been sent a couple of times by Fox. I had actually passed on it twice because I didn’t get what they were trying to do.” And to be fair to Waters, it sounds pretty insane.
The plot would have revolved around the publicist for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (instead of a New York real estate developer as it stands now) who winds up having to juggle the titular penguins, while trying to hide a problem with Manning’s throwing arm from the press. Uh, what? That’s kind of inspired in a David O. Russell sort of way, but also, kind of terrible in another way. “I remember thinking, I don’t know how you guys would make this movie,” Waters said but his wife was a big a fan of the script.
“We were on vacation and she read it and turned to me and said, ‘If you don’t want to do this movie, you and I need to have a serious discussion about your career, because this is great!’ And I was like, ‘Really, even the whole Peyton Manning thing?!’ And she was like, ‘What are you talking about?,’” Waters recalls.
Anyway, we’ll never know what could have been as Carrey came aboard and now the movie looks far less interesting, and a whole lot more terrible. “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” opens this Friday and if you squint really hard Jim Carrey sorta looks like Peyton Manning and that might be more fun that paying attention to the actual movie. As for Stiller and Baumbach they’re still attached to the director’s next effort “While We’re Young” but the film seems to be stumbling along and we’re keeping our fingers crossed it doesn’t fall apart completely.