release date: 26 November 2014 (Canada)
run time: 92 mins
considered: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
director: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith
starring: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, Peter Stormare, Andy Richter, Danny Jacobs, Sean Charmatz, Wener Herzog, Stephen Kearin, Kelly Cooney
movie summary: Everyone knows that the majority of the penguins species live down in Antarctica. There are many different types of penguins, who live all over the world, but no matter where they are there is one trait they all share, and that is the inability to fly. No one could ever count the number of documentaries there are on penguins, but no director has ever come across a group of penguins like the ones from Madagascar.
While on the yearly trek across the frozen tundra, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), and Rico (Conrad Vernon) decide to break from the march to find their own path to the new settlement. Skipper pauses for a minute to watch a baby penguin egg roll down a hill all the way down to a cliff where it disappears over the edge. Kowalski, Skipper’s right hand man, plans a safe route for the trio to rescue the egg from some seals. After an adventurous rescue attempt, the three penguins and egg land safely on an iceberg where the egg hatches and Private (Christopher Knights) is born. The four tiny penguins float out to the ocean where they wait for their next big adventure.
Fast forward a few years and the penguins have bounced around from zoo to zoo. Most people associate them with the crazy animals who escaped the Central Zoo in New York City only to end up in Madagascar. After years of touring the planet with the famous lion, zebra, giraffe, and hippo, Skipper decides it’s time for the penguins to break free and find their destiny mission. They travel to Fort Knox where Skipper plans to steal all the gold the United States has stored there. Just when the group is about to hack into building, they run into the evil doctor Dave (John Malkovich) who is there to capture them. By day he’s one of the world’s most respected doctors, but at night in his submarine, Dave is a purple octopus that is out for revenge on our beloved penguins. He can’t believe the guys don’t remember him from all the time they spent together at different zoos across the globe, but Skipper has no clue who he is. Kowalski tries his best to examine the situation, but he has no clue who Dave is and what Skipper should do next. Rico, who is famous for eating everything in sight, takes a bite out of Dave’s new secret invention. The green cylinder contains the secret ingredient that will eliminate everything cute about penguins thus making the general public hate them.
The crew manage to escape the submarine only to be kidnapped by a secret agent group called the North Wind. Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) is in charge of the group whose been tracking Dave for a long time and was ready for a big bust when the penguins strolled in and stole their thunder. Skipper doesn’t like Classified and the two spend the majority of their time debating who is the better leader is. Classified decides to drug the penguins in order to ship them back to Madagascar so they could no longer interfere with his work. In their typical never say die attitude, Skipper leads the guys back to Shanghai where they cross paths with Dave who is now stealing penguins from zoos all over the world. The North Wind bump into the penguins again before Private is kidnapped and held for ransom. Everyone must put their differences aside to work together to distract Dave, his octopus security guards, and rescue Private before all the penguins in the world disappear.
my thoughts: I am a fan of the Madagascar movies. The characters are unique, original, and funny. Those stories may be all about the epic adventures of a few zoo animals, but my favourite characters are by far the penguins. When you get over their catchphrase, “Just smile and wave boys,” you will realize their side stories in the main movies are hilarious. Do you remember in the first film when they steal the ship and head back to Antarctica only to find out it sucks? (video) I laughed so hard and from that moment on these four had a fan for life. (It kinda helps that I’ve lived penguins since I was a little kid but these four guys are hilarious, crazy, and stupid all at the same time!)
I was worried on how good or bad this movie could be based on how horrible the Penguins of Madagascar tv show was. It was tough to get through an episode of that series and with the additional of certain characters made it almost unwatchable. Then word broke that these four guys would get their own motion picture and I couldn’t wait to see them back in action. Penguins opened here on Wednesday and I was there Thursday afternoon, laughing from start to finish.
The penguins are best friends who all serve their purpose within the family, or military group as they like to think of themselves. Skipper is the know it all fearless leader who won’t back down from a fight on top of being a wise cracking hard ass. His right hand man Kowalski is the brains of the operation who makes split second evaluations and calculations that aid all of Skipper’s decisions. Rico is the silent wild and crazy one in the group. His diet consists of eating any and everything, except he doesn’t actually digest these things and is able to pull anything back out of his stomach. Sometimes the tools he eats come in handy when the guys are in trouble and he spits up a paper clip to unlock a cage lock and they are free again. Private, the youngest penguin, is the slowest and dumbest of the four but tries his best to become an equal member of the team. He is overshadowed by Kowalski and Rico, even though he feels that there are many opportunities that he can succeed in. He’ll finally get his big chance at the end of the film to save the day, it will just be a tough decision for Skipper to finally trust him with the chance, which makes the task even more daunting.
The slapstick humour on top of back and forth banter fill out a funny story about a group of penguins who will go to great extremes to have an epic adventure together. One aspect of the story that was not needed and that I didn’t like was the North Wind secret agents. There will be some of you who loved Classified, Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), Eva (Annet Mahendru), and Corporal (Peter Stormare), but I was not a fan. They present a solid challenge to the penguins on top of the evil Dave character. I thought the penguins could have had the whole movie to themselves and tried their best to stop Dave without bumping into these guys who were probably only created to sell more toys. The title of the movie is Penguins of Madagascar, not the Penguins meet a group of wannabes who will steal some of their glory en route to catching the bad guy. Don’t get me wrong these guys were voiced by some brilliant actors/actresses who helped create some memorable moments, even though it was all on the butt end of the penguins jokes.
my final thoughts: Fans of the Penguins of Madagascar will not be disappointed with their first feature film release. Jammed packed with action and sarcasm, the penguins will have us laughing from start to finish while they attempt to tackle one of the world’s most dangerous criminals. I love animated movies and on top of How to Train Your Dragon and Big Hero 6, I would say Penguins of Madagascar would be the third best release of 2014.
my star rating: 7 out 10
imdb: 7.4 out 10
rottentomatoes: 68% out 100%
roger ebert: 3 out 4
richard crouse: 4 out 5