Movie Review – Penguins of Madagascar

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Super spy teams aren’t born…they’re hatched. Discover the secrets of the greatest and most hilarious covert birds in the global espionage biz: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. These elite of the elite are joining forces with a chic undercover organization, The North Wind. Led by handsome and husky Agent Classified (we could tell you his name, but then…you know), voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. Together, they must stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, voiced by John Malkovich, from destroying the world as we know it. [Fox]

It is not uncommon for a hit movie franchise to spit out a spin off, but Penguins of Madagascar fails to live up to the predecessor. Don’t misunderstand, in a box office sense, Penguins should do well and will entertain young children but lacks any real depth of storytelling and is often times far too silly to strike a chord with the rest of the family. Basically, kids will love it but the adults and older children will leave saying, “Meh.”

Directed by Eric Darnell (Madagascar) and Simon J. Smith (Bee Movie), the film has a promising start, with a back story detailing how the penguin foursome of Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) first became the elite penguin super-spy group we were introduced to in the original Madagascar movie. This “origin story” is presented documentary style and is made even better with narration by Werner Herzog.

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But once we get past this promising start, Penguins of Madagascar quickly devolves into 007 parody mode that is used far too frequently in any comedy spy movie, cartoon or live action. This is where the story turns towards the current adventures as Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private set out on a journey across the globe in a race against time to stop Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), a.k.a. Dave, a jealous octopus who once was the main attraction at the zoo until the penguins were introduced and replaced him as the most beloved zoo resident. He is now out for revenge against the penguins. Helping in this pursuit we are introduced to an animal spy agency known as North Wind, led by an arrogant wolf (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is so into being undercover he “cleverly” goes by the name Agent Classified.

It is with faint praise to say that Penguins of Madagascar never gets boring since it never really slows down. The action lives at a brisk pace the entire time. The humor is tight and snappy but again, the lack of a solid storyline here inhibits the potential to produce an enjoyable film. Penguins of Madagascar has just enough to entertain the young moviegoer and that is who this is expressly aimed at. The adults that will be accompanying them will only find a time or two that is chuckle worthy.

Penguins of Madagascar does bring a ton of energy to the table but has a paper thin plotline (that at times has the potential to approach a clever and enjoyable story) which becomes bogged down as a James Bond rip-off marketed to the kiddos. Had DreamWorks expended the same amount of thought into the plot as they did with jokes, the movie would have been more enjoyable. Penguins of Madagascar should have flown. It did have potential to fly high but unfortunately can only muster a feeble waddle. It is a shame that more effort was not put into storytelling.

Penguins of Madagascar

2 out of 5

2 Stars

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