Cinema Reviews

Penguins Of Madagascar Review


It isn’t the first time that characters who are merely on the side-lines of their franchise turn out to be the most popular. Not that I want to draw comparisons to Star Wars here but I have been secretly routing for Wedge Antilles and Boba Fett spin-offs for a while – preferably not ones that have anything to do with clones though.

Following the box office success of three Madagascar movies, DreamWorks’ Penguins of Madagascar is just such a sidekick-stealing-the-show-spin-off. Set right after Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, it follows of Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) as they break into Fort Knox to raid the vending machine for Cheese Dibbles. Minutes into their heist, they find themselves abducted by Dave, an evil Octopus voiced by John Malkovich, who is jealous of their cuteness and resentful after being replaced with penguins by zoo after zoo after zoo. His coping strategy: collecting snow globes. And, of course, revenge. His evil plan: his Medusa serum will turn anyone exposed to it into a monster. No more cuteness for the penguins. They are to be shunned and reviled by society just as he was. Fortunately for our heroes, they are rescued by an inter-species team of secret operatives called The North Wind who have been tracking Dave for a while, detaining some innocent sheep in the process. Their leader is a wolf called Classified (not really his name), voiced by none other than Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch, who immediately takes over the operation. The Penguins (most notably Skipper) won’t have it and go off on their own. Chaos and hilarity ensue.

Without a doubt, the film is bonkers. Which you realise the moment the Fort Knox vending machine comes to life and runs off with the Penguins inside it. The plot has less depth than a third-rate action film, padded out with overlong car (in this case boat) chases through the canals and streets of Venice, lots of running around yelling, and things getting trashed. The ending drags, overused lines abound, and some of the puns – not to mention cultural references – are absolutely groan-worthy. However, if you’re prepared to completely suspend any cynicism and disbelief for 92 minutes, Penguins actually is fun. There is a Skype-themed joke in there that is laugh-out-loud hilarious, octopus Dave incognito is Dr Octavius Brine is a bit creepy and anyway; the voice acting is superb. Cumberbatch and Malkovich take their characters completely seriously, which results in a few genuinely good laughs. The script, co-written by John Aboud, Michael Colton, and Brandon Sawyer is unapologetically full on about its shudder-inducing wordplay. The animation leaves little to be desired (although the 3D is unnecessary), and the score harkens back to recent superhero and action films that Penguins obviously pokes fun at (albeit not always successfully).

It nowhere near lives up to any of Disney’s or DreamWorks’ recent successes but if you fancy taking the kids to the cinema, if you’re a sucker for animated movies, Benedict Cumberbatch or John Malkovich, then you will probably enjoy Penguins of Madagascar in spite or because of its sheer absurdity.

3 Stars




Anne Korn

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