Review: Penguins of Madagascar
PLOT: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private must join up with an undercover operative of animals trying to protect the cute and cuddly. Their mission, to stop Dave the octopus who harbors some jealousy issues, ones hed like to take out on all the penguins of the world.
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR is a pretty funny movie. You can laugh at the constant use of celebrity name puns. There is a hilarious bit involving technology and Skype. They even have a little fun with the idea of documentary filmmakers manipulating dramatic life for the little black and white animals. Yep, theres a good amount of chuckle worthy moments spread throughout PENGUINS. The constant humor is the best thing about this spin-off of the MADAGASCAR films, with four adventure seeking penguins having to possibly save their entire species. Is it deep? No. Is there some message hidden in the clever dialogue? Not really. But there are far worse ways to spend an hour and a half sitting through an animated feature.
The story behind this latest animated film from DreamWorks is almost too simple. Four penguins inadvertently get caught up in the pursuit of a criminal octopus. There are no surprises, but the story serves its purpose by re-introducing Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and the cute one, Private (Christopher Knights) the wisecracking penguins from MADAGASCAR. Even at an early age we find that these four birds didnt follow along like everybody else. They were always headed for trouble even if they impossibly manage to escape it. Yet there is one animal that wasnt as enamored of these adorable creatures during their years at the zoo. Dave the octopus (John Malkovich) carries a big grudge for the fine flipper friends and will do anything he can to destroy them all.
Did I mention there is no real message here? Well, I guess if you dig deep enough you can find one. After all, the cuddly Private really shows growth here. Yet other than that, this is just goofy amusement. The penguins of course are not the only ones trying to stop Dave, as Benedict Cumberbatch leads a brave team of animals ready to fight for the safety of all those who are threatened. Peter Stromare is particularly well cast as a big old polar bear that has a soft spot for those cute little penguins.
Its hard not to appreciate the spoof-centric comedy with a script by John Aboud, Michael Colton and Brandon Sawyer. At least if you are in the mood for guffaws. They relish in the buffoonery, yet mostly avoid getting overtly crude in the process mostly, but not completely. And for much of the running time, the writers keep the jokes coming. It also helps that McGrath, Miller, Vernon and Knights are very comfortable shooting off the one-liners and silly humor that runs throughout PENGUINS. They even have a little amusement poking at the previous films and the use of that annoyingly catchy tune, I Like to Move it. And for good measure they add a couple of entertaining cameos from MADAGASCAR regulars in the mix.
As the predictably inept villain Dave, John Malkovich is an inspired choice. Both he and Cumberbatch give their all to the project and it is better for it. Yet what works more so is the fact that many of the voice actors involved specialize in just that. They are talent who work regularly in animation. The penguins continue to be performed by the same actors who created the characters, and it works especially well with the four in the spotlight. While the appeal of giving major cinema stars voice work in animated films is obvious, it is oftentimes better to stick to names that may not be so familiar for audiences.
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR is a fun time and sure, its a bit dumb with a joke or two that drags but at least it entertains. There is nothing particularly meaningful or deep in its message, but it is absolutely enjoyable. If you have a soft spot for these characters in the previous movies, youll find their humor works the same here. In fact, I probably preferred this to most of the films in this franchise. If you are up for laughs and a bunch of silliness, you may well enjoy the good times these PENGUINS have to offer.