Penguins of Madagascar

Director: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Peter Stormare, Ken Jeong, Andy Richter, Werner Herzog

Rated: PG (mild action and some rude humor)

Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private join forces with undercover organization The North Wind to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it.

 

Penguins of Madagascar

By Matt Greene

I’m not a fan of Madagascar…it’s a Shrek knock-off more worried about pop culture references than good entertainment. To me, a spin-off for minor characters from that universe feels like a recipe for failure. However, with rapid-fire jokes, childish joy, and zippy brightness, Penguins manages to surpass its own source material. Not because it’s groundbreaking or far-reaching, but because it’s pure theme-park-style amusement. With zippy animation and mile-a-minute animalistic laughs, kids and parents will happily leave their brains in the comedic dust for this one.

You needn’t have seen the other Madagascar films to see this one, as we follow the four-penguin spy team on a mission to stop an evil (and greatly designed) octopus named Dave. When forced into emotional beats and overly-sincere Hollywood plot tropes, Penguins stumbles, but luckily it mostly dodges this. Penguins’ tone pulls from Kung Fu Panda, The Incredibles, and even the Zucker-Abrams hay-days of film spoofdom (Airplane!), and when it stays with zany goofiness, it soars. The voice acting is especially fantastic, with some normally serious performers (Cumberbatch, Malkovich, Stormare) fully buying into the silly puns and smart wordplay.

Penguins holds the distinction of being the first movie in theatres my 2-year-old could sit all the way through, all the while keeping my wife and me in stitches. That must account for something, even if this is the kind of movie that is easily dispensable and potentially forgettable. Strong comedic timing, well-written kids humor, and plenty of LOL moments is proof enough that cute laughs can be all a family needs to kill 90 minutes if done with this much spunk.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

 

Penguins of Madagascar

By Cole Schneider

“Penguins of Madagascar” is Dreamworks first Madagascar feature to star the penguins, although they did have their own T.V. show. Sometimes less is more. I was never a fan of the Madagascar movies, but even those who were must be feeling fatigue now. The film follows the penguins as they stand up against an evil octopus whose envy has spilled over to vengeance as he tries to rid the world of the penguin’s cuteness. Sounds like a bad T.V. episode from a throwaway kid show, right? Basically it is.

Jokes come 100 mph. It’s basically a screwball comedy over-stuffed with sight gags, and sometimes it works. There are certainly jokes to laugh at, but the percentage that hit is very low. “Penguins” is like the basketball player who scores 20 points a game shooting under 40% from the field. Is your team better off? Sometimes less is more.

Most of the humor is too adult for children and too childish for adults. Much of it is too infantile for infants. Like the previous Madagascar films, the world building is so inadequate that everything becomes inane. and the endless movie references are never as funny as intended. There just isn’t enough confidence in their gags to allow the audience the chance to enjoy them. Although, that is probably for the better.

“Penguins” is a film with absolutely no emotional weight that offers the audience some decent jokes, but among the central problems is that the narrative itself is a joke. There isn’t any attempt to make us care about anything.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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