Penguins of Madagascar

Penguins of Madagascar

(PG) Starring the voice talent of: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, Christopher Knights and John Malkovich

Did you know that there was a conspiracy against penguins? They are cute and they draw the crowds at animal parks all over the world. But Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich) seems to have a vendetta against these cute, flightless birds. So, the familiar feathered team from Madagascar must save all the penguins of the world. Having already been key parts of the Madagascar franchise, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) are given their opportunity here to fly on their own. The story begins with the historical journey of the four monochromatic friends and their eventual involvement with the rest of Madagascar‘s characters. Through a series of espionage-style events, they are reacquainted with the villainous Brine.

The penguins reluctantly join forces with the undercover organisation, The North Wind. Led by James Bond-esque Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), the two teams battle for opportunities to defeat Dr. Brine’s plan.

Directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith have been on the Madagascar production team for most of the series. They know the value of good characters and you can tell that they have done their best to capitalise on these clever talking animals. The biggest problem of the penguins getting there own movie, though, is that they were the comic relief and story filler in the first three Madagascar films. Just like their colouring, these characters are two-dimensional at best. They are funny at times, but they lack depth to carry a full-length feature film.


Are your kids watching too much TV? from The Big Picture on Vimeo.

The story itself is not objectionable and has endearing moments of friendship and family, but it lacks any layered nuances for the sake of sprucing up what’s going on. The Madagascar movies have moved to the point of ridiculous before, but this storyline seems to be a bit of a retread of many other films. The penguins work from the Get Smart playbook, while the primary plotline of revenge was seen last year in Despicable Me 2. Oh, and the animation was reminiscent of Monsters vs. Aliens (perhaps, not too surprising, as DreamWorks production company made that film, and Penguins of Madagascar). Sadly, the penguins movie does come off tired and unoriginal. Like looking at a copy of a copy of other stories.

This film was written and designed for children under 10 years of age. In recent cinematic history, animated film-makers have been attempting to make films that appeal to adults and children. Going for jokes and subtle nuances that allow the parents to enjoy the film on a different level than the child. This does not happen in Penguins; there is no subtlety in this latest instalment of Madagascar. Best that can be said for Penguins of Madagascar is that it can be fun at times and is a safe choice for families. My nine-year old daughter thought the film was funny, but it’s far from her favourite. My 16-year-old son picked apart all of the plot points. As for me, I struggled to stay awake throughout the film.

The Penguins of Madagascar is supposed to be a “wild” ride, but merely becomes a “safe” choice.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. Is the God of the Bible a God of justice? (Psalm 37: 27-29, Romans 12:19)
  2. Is revenge sweet? (Leviticus 19:18, Romans 12:19)
  3. Should they make another Madagascar spin-off? (Ephesians 5:11)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger


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