Penguins of Madagascar

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Antarctica, three young penguins – Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico – defy the laws of nature to save an egg the other penguins believe to be doomed. After saving it from a pack of leopard seals and accidentally setting themselves adrift on an iceberg, the egg hatches into Private.

Ten years later (after the events of the previous film), the penguins decide to leave the circus to celebrate Private’s birthday by breaking into Fort Knox in order to treat him to a discontinued snack called “Cheezy Dibbles” in the vending machine of their break room. Despite this, Private begins to feel out of place with the team, as he is described as being the “secretary/mascot”. Suddenly, they are abducted by the machine and sent to Venice, Italy by Dr. Octavius Brine, a renowned geneticist who removes his human disguise and reveals he is actually an octopus named Dave, who has grown resentful of penguins after their nature of cuteness had shunned him out of every major zoo in the world.

Rico swallows Dave’s collection of snowglobes along with a canister of a green substance called the Medusa Serum before the four escape and are chased through the canals and streets of Venice by Dave’s henchmen. When cornered, they are rescued by a group of animals from a spy agency called “North Wind” consisting of their leader, a grey wolf whose name is classified, (Skipper mistakenly refers to him as “Classified” throughout the entire film) a harp seal demolitionist named Short Fuse, a polar bear named Corporal, and an intelligent snowy owl named Eva with whom Kowalski is instantly smitten. Their mission is to help animals who can’t help themselves.

At their hideout, their communication systems are hacked by Dave, who reveals that he has an enormous supply of the Medusa Serum and that he intends to capture the penguins out of every zoo he was kicked out of. Not wanting the penguins’ help, Classified sends the group to their most remote base (which happens to be on Madagascar) but the penguins awaken midflight and crash land in the Sahara Desert before making their way to Shanghai, which they mistake for Dublin, Ireland. Discovering Dave’s next target in Shanghai, the penguins ship themselves to their current location and make their way to the zoo. Disguising himself as a mermaid-tailed penguin (a tourist attraction) to distract Dave from his real target, Private himself is captured along with the Shanghai penguins after the North Wind arrives to put a stop to Dave’s plan. The penguins take the North Winds’ high-tech plane to give chase, but accidentally self-destruct the machine. They manage to track Private to an island though, using a device planted on him when Classified tranquilized them. Meanwhile, on the island, Dave demonstrates his way to genetically mutate the penguins into hideous monsters as an effort to make humans disgusted in them as revenge.

Skipper and Classified argue on the best means to rescue the captives and stop Dave, settling on Classified’s plan of a frontal assault. The North Wind manages to corner Dave at his lair only to be captured by Dave’s henchmen as well as the other penguins. Dave demonstrates his disfiguring ray at full power on Private, apparently disintegrating him with the beam, but unbeknownst to them he escapes at the last minute by using a paper clip he swallowed earlier. Private rescues the North Wind members, who want to regroup, but Private, not wanting to leave anyone behind goes to stop Dave. As Dave’s submarine docks at New York with the promise of returning the penguins he found to the zoo, he turns the ray on the rest of the penguins, mutating them all into hideous monsters. The city erupts into chaos as the brainwashed, mutated penguins run amok on the terrified human crowd. Getting the senses back into Skipper, Kowalski and Rico, they decide to connect the cute Private into the ray to return them to normal. They turn all the penguins back to normal in one huge blast.

Private is left mutated from the machine while the rest of the penguins are restored to normal. Despite his strange new look, the Penguins show their gratitude and newfound respect for Private. Dave (who caught in the blast) has been turned into a pipsqueak version of himself and is trapped in a snow globe where he is admired by a little girl. Finally seeing one another as equals, Classified promises to grant the Penguins anything they want. In addition to Kowalski getting a kiss from Eva, the Penguins are given their own jetpacks and they then fly off above the clouds looking for their next adventure.

In a mid-credits scene, the Penguins return to the circus and plug Mort into the ray and use him to revert Private back to normal. Mort does not appear to show any side effects from the ray until he manages to swallow King Julien whole, much to King Julien’s delight.

REVIEW:

Well, we have now reached that point in time where the animated franchises we’ve been watching the past few years are now letting their popular side characters have their own films. Aside from this film, Penguins of Madagascar, there was this summer’s huge hit Minions, next summer we get a film based on Scrat from Ice Age, and I’m sure there are more to come.

What is this about?

Having shown their mettle in previous Madagascar animated epics, dauntless penguins Skipper, Rico, Private and Kowalski team with a covert group, the North Wind, to stage an all-or-nothing showdown with the fiendish Dr. Octavius Brine.

What did I like?

On their own. We were first introduced to the penguins way back in the first Madagascar movie. Seeing as how they, and apparently King Julien, have been the breakout stars of that franchise, rather than the main characters, it makes sense that they have their own show on Nickelodeon and are making an attempt to cash in some more with a big screen adventure. Not having any of the characters from their original franchise, not counting a mid-credits scene, allows them to stand on their own two feet, which I can appreciate.

Documentary. When it comes to nature documentaries these days, Werner Herzog seems to be the guy you go to for narration. He pops up at the beginning of this, filming what looks to be a penguin documentary. I’m sure this was put in for the adults watching, and it was a very nice touch.

Animation. The other day, it was brought to my attention that it has been 20 years since the release of Toy Story. Think about what that film looks like and compare it to the more recent animated films that have come out. You can clearly see how far animation has come! In this case, there is a fluidity to the octopi that we wouldn’t have seen not that long ago, a more defined look to the penguins feathers, and even the snow looked more realistic. I still am no fan of using computers to animate, but I respect what they have been able to accomplish.

What didn’t I like?

Dr. Brine. The villain of the film is an octopus who masquerades as a human scientist and feels he has been slighted by penguins around the world. Ok, that makes for a good plot to go with the story, but what is my issue? Well, in his human disguise, he is still moving around like a slinky! How does no one get this? The villain in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 does something similar, but he’s a yoga nut, if I recall. Also, the design of this guy doesn’t fit with John Malkovich’s voice. Don’t get me wrong, Malkovich does a great job as the villain, but the way this guy was drawn, you’d think they were expecting Rainn Wilson!

Puns. When it comes to jokes, there are certain types that are sure to generate laughs, others that will draw boos, and then there are puns. Puns are the best when used sparingly. Someone should have told that to whoever it was that wrote this script, because the puns used as names was a joke that got old fast. For example, “Halle…bury them! Helen…Hunt them down! Hugh, Jack…man the battle stations! Charlize…they’re on the ship [sic]” (Halle Berry, Helen Hunt, Hugh Jackman, Charlize Theron). Admittedly, these could be clever, but for me it was too much at one time.

Attempted feelings. Someone thinks that these penguins needed a backstory complete with feelings about how Private is left out and unappreciated. I don’t know who this person is, but they messed up the dynamic of the team by doing so. Skipper is the leader! It is his job to lead the penguins, regardless of the outcome. Private is the young and cute one. End of story! Why must everyone mess with the formula. Remember when Coca-Cola tried that in the 80s? Didn’t work too well, did it?

For a spinoff children’s film, Penguins of Madagascar wasn’t half bad. It accomplished what it needed to in a short amount of time which, given the ADHD of the audience this is made for works out just fine. There are a couple of jokes here and there for parents to enjoy, and a flashback to Madagascar 3, for those that wanted to see what the penguins were up to while all that singing and dancing was going on. All in all, this is a pretty good picture to watch with the kids. Do I recommend it? Yes, I do!

4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Penguins of Madagascar”

  1. […] but as I watched this film, I felt that the jokes and momentum died as it went along. Similar to Penguins of Madagascar, it is a valiant effort, but these are characters whose worth on the big screen is best served as […]

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