Despite being very much an adult I will confess to having seen all three Madagascar movies and the penguins were always my favourite part. There was just something highly entertaining about these cute and cuddly birds who talked like hard boiled criminals in a heist movie and who had ninja skills which could get them out of any tough situation. So it’s very exciting that they’ve been given their own showcase with The Penguins of Madagascar.
We first meet Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon) in the Arctic bored stiff with penguin activities and being filmed by a nature documentary crew (including Werner Herzog in the years most surreal cameo). The wiley trio rescue a runaway egg which hatches and reveals Private (scene stealer Christopher Knights) and lo an unlikely family is formed.
Flash forward several years and after escaping the circus the penguins infiltrate Fort Knox (not to steal any gold but to get at the country’s last remaining Cheesy Dibbles). There they encounter the villainous Dave the octopus (John Malkovich). Dave hates penguins for stealing his limelight & has an evil plan to turn the world against them. Can our fearless foursome thwart Dave’s evil schemes? Or will they have to rely on slick spies The North Wind (headed by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Agent Classified) to save the day?
The Penguins of Madagascar is just plain fun. It is bright, frantic and very very very silly. It’s getting some remarkably snotty reviews for not having enough heart but I found the relationship between the four penguins to be really endearing. Besides this is a movie that just wants to make you giggle and achieves its aim admirably. Everyone was clearly having an absolute riot making it and it shows. Malkovich’s silky sinister tones are perfect for the villainous Dave and his octopus henchmen are every bit as compelling as the Despicable Me minions. Benedict Cumberbatch is hugely entertaining as the suave Agent Classified who is more concerned with all his pretty toys and how awesome he’ll look swaggering away from an explosion than with the penguins plight. It’s a very funny turn and makes me wish Cumberbatch did far more comedy.
The film is littered with silly repeating gags such as Skipper’s inability to remember the villain’s name and all of Dave’s henchman having names which sound like movie stars (“Hugh? Jack? Man the canons.” “Charlize they’re on the death ray.” “Nicholas! Cage them”.)
There are also some wildly inventive scenes such as the penguins scrap with the octopus henchmen along the canals of Venice. The movie is fun with a capital F. I saw it at a preview packed with very young children who merrily giggled throughout. Fantastic fun for all the family.
A quick note on format – I saw it in 2D and must be honest it doesn’t strike me as a film that needs to be in 3D. So if that format causes you issues you won’t be missing much if you opt for a 2D screening.