March of the Penguins
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
An up close and personal documentary showing the mating habits of emperor penguins in their natural frozen habitat. Itís a complete and detailed story, chronicling everything from their courtship rituals to conception of offspring, all under the most harrowing conditions on Earth.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
It seems like as films, documentaries come out with a strike against them already. Most people (no, not you film fanatics and couch critics!) see a documentary film as one step closer to a death sentence and in doing so, have upped the ante for all filmmakers of these types of films to do better then ever before. Now more than ever, with Michael Moore (Iíve loved and adored his stuff since ROGER & ME!) winning the Oscar for the powerful BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and Morgan Spurlock turning the format on its ear with his brilliant SUPER SIZE ME, documentaries have become the place to turn to for a great film experience. So MARCH OF THE PENGUINS, while working from a subject matter that has gone almost ignored, has a lot to live up to and it doing so, only half succeeds. The genius of this film mostly involves the brilliant cinematography by Laurent Chalet and Jerome Maison, who (besides the penguins themselves) are the true unsung heroes of this doc. Their work, even against all the brutal icy elements, is nothing short of spectacular. From large scopes of thousands of Penguins making their march, to close up portraits of them in a sensitive mating ritual, the canvas is painted in full color here and the result is a true visual masterpiece.
As for the documentary itself, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS stuffers from too many lag moments. Meaning the film itself is uneven, at times riveting and original, but then turns into that show on the history channel your mom forced you to watch. Morgan Freeman, who narrates here, definitely captures and emulates the refined nature of the penguins, but his deep and mesmerizing tone sometimes had me falling asleep. Other criticís would have you believe that this is a fun film for the entire family, but I say this one is for adults only. Not to say that itís too graphic (although there are some deaths and predatory stuff that may bother little ones), but itís just not fast moving and cute enough for young kids to sit through. (Estimated time before kid evacuation Ė 18 minutes Ė and yes, I timed this!) But letís face it, the true stars here are the penguins themselves; their power, grace, determination, and ability to overcome odds that would make Gandhi cry, is inspiring. Itís just too bad MARCH OF THE PENGUINS didnít show their story in a more well put together package. This march is more like a relaxing walk; it would get to the finish line eventually, but it would never win the race.
(And yes, even if this one wins the Oscar, I still stand by my words!)
Of Penguins And Men (53:43): Can it be possible that this featurette (which is basically a full documentary!) is better then the actual film? You bet your sweet ass! This is what March should have been, if it had a better editor. It contains a lot of the same info on the penguins themselves (though more succinctly!), but mixes it up by including the story of the two men who filmed as well. The result is a doc that is far superior than the film it represents and I donít know if thatís a good thing, because it shows off the flaws that March has like a neon sign. And I preferred this docís commentary from the Hollywoodized Freeman version, as the excitement in the voice here is clearly audible, keeping the audience interested. This is the one that should take the march to the podium to collect the Oscar. (But not the Kidís Choice Awards, as it still has the same effect on little attention spans that March did!)
National Geographicís Crittercam: Emperor Penguins (23:30): This starts off like it will be a light and quirky min-doc for the kids (until the long lingering shot of a dead penguin shows up!), but turns out to be just an uneven featurette. (Is this one a min-doc or a history lesson guys!?) This one is centers around the camera they strap onto various animals they call the crittercam. Interesting idea, but I bet you the animals werenít digging it! (Graphic animal kills alert, beware kids!)
8 Ball Bunny (7:07): While this is a great Bugs Bunny cartoon for kids, the seven minute running time doesnít even allow parents to go into the next room for a quickie! Just because it has to do with penguins, doesnít mean it fits well with this set. It feels out of place and it isnít big enough to make up for the fact that the little ones will be bored with March. Too little, too late.
Also available here is the Theatrical Trailer.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is worth a rental to see the amazing adventures of creatures who brave all the hardships the world has to offer, just to keep their race alive. But as a film itself, it needs a trimming and to let viewers know that itís not for the whole family. Donít let the wholesome and cute advertising fool you, this flick will have the bored kids yelling for MADAGASCAR and will have the adults marching to the kitchen to escape. Just as in life, the penguins here do all the work.