Often when smaller characters which are hysterical in their supporting roles are expanded to the focal point(s) they fall flat. Some characters are destined to be good only in small doses. I went into Penguins of Madagascar with that in mind and some trepidation. Hoping that my opinion of those zany and cute penguins that were hilarious in the Madagascar films would not be tainted. If you are like me then you can exhale as they translated well carrying a feature length film on their tiny shoulders.
After a short flashback showing Skipper (Tom McGrath – Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Megamind), Kowalski (Chris Miller – Shrek Forever After, Monsters vs. Aliens) and Rico (Conrad Vernon – Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2) as youngsters and how they joined up with the even younger Private (Christopher Knights – Flushed Away, Shrek 2), we leap into an adventure in which the Penguins go up against a very jealous octopus named Dave (John Malkovich – Dangerous Liaisons, Burn After Reading). Dave’s, also known as Dr. Octavius Brine, need for revenge grew as each zoo or aquarium he moved to the penguins arrived at and stole the spotlight. Pushed to the brink by this rejection Dave has now come up with a plan that will change the world as we know it.
Despite the fact that Skipper et al. believe they can thwart Dave they are pushed aside by the elite secret task force called North Wind. North Wind is led by Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch – Star Trek: Into Darkness, War Horse) and under him is a white seal named Short Fuse (Ken Jeong – The Hangover, Despicable Me 2), a white owl named Eva (Annet Mahendru – from television’s The Americans) and a polar bear named Corporal (Peter Stormare – Fargo, 22 Jump Street). They have all the technology, training and looks, but in the end it will be the Penguins that are called upon to save the day.
Most animated film are aimed at kids and not adults. The good ones hit both target markets and Penguins of Madagascar falls into that category. Lots of funny bits that parents will find as amusing (or maybe even more) as their kids will. Witty one-liners are in abundance coupled with some silly physical comedy. A winning combination in my book.
As fast and furious as the funny stuff comes so does the action. It is kept at a high pace pretty much throughout with nary a dull moment to be had. Don’t stop to think about it either because most of the stuff that happens is physically impossible, but, hey, you paid to come see a film with talking penguins so realism should not be high on your list. Nor should focus as that is not in abundance either. Buckle up and strap yourself in for pure adrenaline and laughs.
The visuals are great and enhanced even further by seeing the film in 3D. Worth the couple of extra bucks.
Almost lost amidst all the laughs and continuous action is the lovely lesson about not pigeonholing people (or penguins) due to how they look. Even the cutest penguin should be taken seriously.