Penguins of Madagascar (2014) – Review

Directed by Eric Darnell, Simon J Smith
Written by John Aboud, Michael Colton, Brandon Sawyer
Starring Tom McGrath, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, Chris Miller
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.

One of the useful things about having kids is that they are sometimes a great excuse to see something that you normally wouldn’t bother with. Social conventions, whilst polite niceties I’m not too familiar with, are things that I do pay attention to on occasion and subsequently going to a general public screening of a children’s film surrounded by kids and parents, on my own, is not something I’m in the habit of doing, for a number of reasons I don’t think we need to go into here, obvious as those reasons are.
And if you’re going to take mutual advantage of those scruffy little ruffians when going to see a movie around this time of year, there are many worse choices you could make than going to see what are arguably the best reasons to go and view a Madagascar film at all. Much like Despicable Me’s Minions, the Penguins proved to be the biggest draw for seeing the film, spawning a television show of their own and in a griffin-like return whilst munching on a cheese dibble, here they are, back to the big screen in their own, irreverent right.

“Smile and wave boys, just smile and wave.”
Here, our intrepid heroes are tasked with foiling a dastardly plot to kidnap all of the worlds penguins and turn them into mutant killing machines by Dr Octavius Brine, a megalomaniac octopus voiced by John Malkovich, who was upset at an early age when some new baby penguins were installed at the zoo and he lost his adoring fanbase. Feeling ousted and hurt by this lack of attention from the public that loved him so much, he hatched an evil plan that would one day make all penguins pay for the way he felt he was treated. As daft as it sounds? Absolutely. But lets remember the target audience, who incidentally, lapped it up and brought the house down on several occasions.

Hurtling past the five laugh test, starting with a clever dig at Werner Herzog that grown ups and kids will appreciate for entirely different reasons, the film continues through its running time to bring both wry smiles and actual belly laughs on occasion with a witty script that delves into slapstick often enough for fans of the more obvious and physical pratfalls of visual comedy.
 “We are the North Wind. Nobody breaks the wind.”
The voice performances are, as you might expect, all excellent and the script is strong enough for all ages to allow the acting talent to get their teeth into it and really let fly (if you’ll pardon the pun). Malkovich is seemingly perfectly cast as ‘Dave’, the uber-baddie and the animation and attention to detail from the art department is also gratefully appreciated with lightweight touches (like traversing a zebra crossing, for example) an example of a wicked sense of humour so full that that film doesn’t need to rely on these asides to make it work for the audience.
 
In all, Penguins is as good an example of a comedy for all ages as you will see this year, successfully managing to entertain both adults and the children that may well drag them to see it. Littered with enough jokes that the kids might miss but the adults with enjoy, this does slapstick and pratfall as well as any project recently, but is still considered enough to remember who is paying for the tickets to see it and provides enough to interest that demographic too. Recommended.

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