Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011). A gift from Popper's father.

In an opening flashback, Thomas Popper, Jr., is a child whose father traveled around the world during his childhood in the 1970s. Popper rarely sees his father, Thomas Sr., during his travels and communicates with him through shortwave radio.

In the present day, Popper is now a divorced real estate entrepreneur and a father of two children, Janie and Billy. After returning home from work one day, Popper learns that his father has died during an adventure to Antarctica and, as per his will, has left him with a “souvenir” from his adventures in Antarctica. The following week, a crate containing a gentoo penguin, named Captain, appears at his door. Popper immediately becomes annoyed with the penguin and locks him in a bathroom before going to work. After Captain accidentally floods his apartment with bath water, Popper calls his father’s organization asking to return the penguin, but, due to a miscommunication, ends up receiving a shipment of five more penguins named Loudy, Bitey, Stinky, Lovey, and Nimrod.

Popper intends to give them away to the zoo, but changes his idea when his children think that the penguins are Billy’s birthday present. An incensed Popper is forced to spend evenings taking care of the penguins and bribing the apartment clerk to not rat him out to the board, as pets are not allowed in the apartment. At one point, he receives an offer to take the penguins off his hands from Nat Jones, the antagonistic zookeeper at the New York Zoo, who warns him that the penguins won’t survive at his house. Unknown to Popper, Jones also plans to trade the penguins for animals the zoo does not have.

At work, Popper is given the task of buying Tavern on the Green, the only privately owned piece of real estate in Central Park that is an old restaurant where he used to eat with his father when he was a child. However, the restaurant’s elderly owner, Selma Van Gundy, will only sell it to a person of true value. Popper has meetings with her, but due to him having to juggle them with taking care of the penguins, she begins to have some serious doubts about him.

As time goes on, having the penguins around helps Popper become closer to his children. The penguins lay three eggs. Two eggs hatch, but one does not. Popper becomes obsessed with seeing the last egg hatch, causing him to lose his job. Eventually Popper realizes that the egg is somehow unable to hatch, and, after being given permission from Jones to do so, decides to donate the penguins to the zoo. Then, he is re-employed but his children and ex-wife, Amanda, are disappointed by his decision.

Popper finds a letter from his father—included in the original crate with Captain but lost when Popper broke the crate by accident—telling him to hold his children close and love them and apologizing for not being a better father that Popper needed. Having second thoughts, Popper asks his children and ex-wife to help him get the penguins back from the zoo. After a brief argument with Jones, the family manages to find and free the penguins, while evading Jones and the zoo’s security. Upon seeing how Popper had reunited his family and saved the penguins, Van Gundy sells him the restaurant. Popper decides to renovate and reopen the restaurant. Popper and his family travel to Antarctica with the penguins, allowing them to live with their own kind. Popper’s first penguin, Captain, is revealed to have laid another egg. Popper tells his children that they will visit the penguins when the egg hatches.

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