Review: Penguins of Madagascar
The Madagascar franchise has been successful since its inception back in 2005, and as a joke they introduced these ridiculously adorable and silly penguins, as if the movie needed more comic relief. The penguins, which were originally just a gag, became something more of a phenomenon that swept the franchise. These loveable penguins started stealing the spotlight, and inevitably got their own short-lived television show the Penguins Of Madagascar. It is no surprise that a feature film would come from their wide success, however the film itself felt a little dry and over done.
The movie starts off with the Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon) around their home, as they see a penguin egg fall and roll away from the pack. Skipper being outraged that no one is helping save that egg because its just nature, decides to defy nature and go after the egg with Kowalski and Rico. The jokes start around here, as they in a sense break the fourth wall and acknowledge the documentary crew (led by Werner Herzog) filming them all leading up to the edge of the mountain where the egg fell off and landed on an abandoned ship. The documentarian instructs his soundman to nudge the three penguins off of the cliff so they can capture the footage. This is where Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico go into their usual antics of ridiculous plots and escapes that make them so entertaining. After saving the egg, they land on a floating piece of glacier, as they one five the egg making it hatch and giving the team, Private (Christopher Knights).
However the film does not kick it into gear, until we learn about the penguins latest mission, take down the super villain know as Dr. Octavious Brine, or as he referes to himself to the penguins, Dave (John Malkovich); a purple octopus that can change himself into a human form. However, Dave happens to be a craftier opponent that the penguins ever expected, and when they are cornered by two of Dave’s minions the North Wind intervenes and saves the day. The North Wind is a team of elite superhero animals led by a control freak Wolf, Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his team consisting of a seal named Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), an owl named Eva (Annet Mahendru) and a gigantic bear with a soft spot, Corporal (Peter Stormare). Shortly after we learn that Dave hates the penguins, because they continuously stole the spotlight from him zoo after zoo after zoo, leading to his plan to take out all of penguin kind! The question is, who will be able to accomplish the job of taking down Dave – the penguins or the North Wind?
The animation is truly what excels throughout the feature. Dreamworks has consistently been able to make movies look beautiful and stunning in their animation, that when needed can make up for slights in the story. However, the penguins are adorable and fun in their own aspect but at roughly 90 minutes their cuteness starts to wear off and explains why the film relied on secondary characters and introduced a new team of animal heroes.
Moreover, what works throughout the film are the puns and jokes that are made for the sole purpose of entertaining the adults. Jokes such as “Nicholas, cage him” and other puns like that throughout. Most of the movie is aimed at the target audience, but bringing in Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich adds something to it that the adults will appreciate more than the young ones who the film is made for. As well, Malkovich seems to be having the most fun throughout the entire film as his voice acting channels the most entertaining and extravagant side of him.
Penguins of Madagascar is perfect for its intended target audience, as it will surely keep children’s attention but the movie is lacking some substance and heart that the penguins throughout the rest of the franchise demonstrated. The Penguins of Madagascar is a weaker installment in the Madagascar franchise but still remains better than the third installment. Loveable side characters often struggle at succeeding on their own.