The Madagascar film series is one of the highest grossing animated film franchises of all time. Since 2005, three feature length films, a spinoff series and tons of merchandise have been produced to capitalize on the animated animals and their various adventures. A fourth film, Penguins of Madagascar is now out and it focuses on the exploits of the four lovable penguins who appeared in supporting roles throughout the franchise. With a mission to simply make more money, DreamWorks Animation is continuing its successful crusade but sadly, Penguins is overstuffed with stimulation which will delight young ones but will fall somewhat flat with parents.
Penguins follows Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights), four arctic birds who find themselves in exciting often dangerous situations. They make appearances in previous Madagascar productions but here, they really get a chance to shine. When trying to find their favorite snack, Cheesy Dibbles, the gang accidentally gets kidnapped and come face to face with the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine a.k.a. Dave (John Malkovich), an octopus who has a strong hatred for the penguins and other cute creatures like them who often steal Dave’s spotlight. A dastardly plan is soon revealed to the penguins and they, with the help of a ultra high-tech spy agency, “North Wind”, led by a wolf named Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) work together to stop Dave at all costs.
There are many things wrong with Penguins of Madagascar but from a kid’s point of view, it’s not half bad. There is way too much action. In fact, there is nothing but action and when the audience finally has a chance to breathe, what occurs on screen is a cheap wisecrack or visual gag. Children might need a nap after watching this film because it is way too busy. The filmmakers should have considered this when editing the film but what’s done is done. Having said that, the humor is a tad cheesy and juvenile which is surprising since most, if not all DreamWorks animated films cater to both children and adults. Penguins caters simply to kids and parents need to go in with a bit of caution because the film may repel them.
Negatives aside, Penguins does offer some very clean and beautiful animation and the action scenes are done with truly expert precision. Two scenes worth noting are a gondola chase through Venice and a plane crash sequence in which the penguins get a little creative in terms of making it safely out of that tricky situation. If only the filmmakers focused more on spacing out the action and providing small rests along the way, I’m positive Penguins would have been a lot better. There is also a moment in the film in which one of the penguins swallows a paperclip to be used later and this scene alarmed me greatly because what if a small child saw this and decides to mimic that action. This scene is my biggest concern and I hope parents will be aware of this. Other than that, the film is charming here and there and is truly gorgeous to look at, but then again so are all DreamWorks films.