With so many supporting characters stealing the show from movies main protagonists, it was only a matter of time before they started getting their own spin-off features. Animation in particular has capitalized on this more than any other type of film. This makes sense, seeing that popular side characters sell lots of toys, and toys are where the money is at for these types of films. Being the best thing about the ‘Madagascar’ films, the penguins always seemed like they should be the star of their own feature at some point in time, and now we have “The Penguins of Madagascar,” which is almost guaranteed to sell a bunch of plush toys for the struggling DreamWorks Animation company. So how do the penguins far in their own feature film?
Well, I think they stand somewhere above Mater the Tow Truck and below Puss in Boots, in terms of being able to hold a film. That actually makes a lot of sense since the penguins have the likability of Puss, yet they are in the spy caper that “Cars 2” desperately wanted to be (but wasn’t very successful at). Either that or they’re in a revenge film, as the villain of the film – Dave the Octopus (John Malkovich) – informs them. Regardless which way you want to look at it, the penguins are shoot from the cuff type of characters. Their plans are thought up mostly on the spot and the commands are given out by their commander Skipper, with very little team discussion. Other characters in this madhouse romp include animals that are part of a secret spy organization, whose leader Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) is under the delusion the penguins need his protection.
All of this is superfluous when you get down to it. The highlight was always going to be the hijinks and the Tex Avery style gags. These the film has in abundance. Most of them very funny. So much so, that you wonder why the directors even bothered with having a conflict in the first place. I admit to laughing a lot during most of “The Penguins of Madagascar,” as I’m sure most kids will. The movie is colorful and cute, never scary and certainly never vulgar. It is the kind of cute kid’s film we’d like to see more often. That the film loses steam midway through seemed inevitable, as shorts seem to be the best place for characters like these to thrive. That might make “The Penguins of Madagascar” a bit taxing on some parents, but without many other options for families, it just might be something they have to deal with.