Each of the three “Madagascar” movies follows a group of lost zoo animals- including Alex the Lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo—as they try to find their way back home. And in each of the three movies, a group of four James Bond-esque penguins stole the show in each little scene they were in. The penguins eventually got their own show on Nickelodeon, but it was only a matter of time before Dreamworks—who also gave popular “Shrek” supporting player Puss in Boots his own movie—let the penguins star in their own film.
After an intro showing how the penguins came together as children, “The Penguins of Madagascar” jumps in time to directly after the events of “Madagascar 3”. The penguins—who include leader Skipper (Tom McGrath), the brains of the group, Kowalski (Chris Miller), demolitions expert Rico (Conrad Vernon), and the cute Private (Christopher Knights), whom no one takes seriously—find they are the target of an evil plot by Dave (John Malkovich), an octopus who was always pushed aside at the zoos he lived in when the adorable penguins stole his spotlight. But Dave is also being hunted down by the North Wind, an elite undercover organization led by a wolf, Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch). Classified and his high tech gear and elaborate plans are completely at odds with Skipper’s unpredictable espionage methods, but they find they have to work together if they’re going to stop Dave from turning all the penguins in the world into hideous monsters.
The big question here is whether or not the penguins can hold a movie on their own, and the answer is that they certainly can. This film is a nice change of pace from the other “Madagascar” movies, which were frankly starting to feel stale. The fact that these cute and cuddly little penguins take themselves so seriously and can pull off some amazing feats also (fortunately) never seems to get old. The film is strengthened by a host of fun new characters, the best of which is Dave. Malkovich voices the diabolical octopus with unbridled enthusiasm; Cumberbatch also makes a rare silly turn as the suave agent Classified, and Ken Jeong voices baby seal Short Fuse.
The animation is fluid and fast-paced, resulting in some really entertaining action sequences. The film also has some hilarious gags that both kids and adults will appreciate, the best running joke being a word play on actors’ names (you just have to see it to get it). The story itself isn’t particularly special and feels a bit too drawn out toward the end, and that’s probably the film’s main flaw. But it’s light and fun family fare that might make you second guess paying so much attention to the penguins next time you visit the zoo.
Runtime: 92 minutes. Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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