RogerBW's Blog

Penguins of Madagascar 10 March 2015

2014, dir. Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith; IMDb / allmovie

In this spin-off from the Madagascar series, four penguin secret agents attempt to foil the plot of the sinister Dr Octavius Brine. Or at least to find Cheesy Dibbles to eat.

I should say that I haven't seen the Madagascar films, so I went into this without preconceptions. If you thought this was going to be any sort of serious film, the point at which Fort Knox's break-room vending machine starts sprouting tentacles (don't ask) should rapidly disabuse you of this mistaken impression; the plot is a bare framework to be populated with jokes, and the characterisation is pretty much a parody in itself (the drill sergeant, the junior guy who thinks he isn't valued by the team, etc., are all cute fuzzy penguins).

The action works, without any of the really egregious momentum errors that often infest CGI, but it too is here principally to support the jokes. There's no soul here; everything exists because of the comedy. The opening sequence is certainly the strongest one (with a treat if you recognise the documentary film-maker's voice); the final act assumes more momentum than the rest of the film has given it, and tends rather to flag.

John Malkovich as the villain may overplay things a little (even by Malkovich standards), and Benedict Cumberbatch as the leader of a rival (and rather more competent) special-operatives team is a disappointment, but as a romp in the spirit of Looney Tunes (with quick-fire jokes in case your grown-up brain is still working) everything more or less holds together. And when the jokes fall flat, as some inevitably do, there'll be another one along in a few seconds.

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  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:34pm on 10 March 2015

    I've seem the first two Madagascar films, and I can tell from your review that there are a lot of similarities with Penguins even though I haven't seen it. Everything is a hook to hang jokes off.

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