Take a Drink: for every one of Dave’s celebrity name wordplays.
Take a Drink: whenever anyone refers to Private as “cute.”
Take a Drink: whenever a red button is pushed.
Take a Drink: at every fart joke.
Take a Drink: for every Bond movie reference you can identify.
Take a Drink: each time the penguins arrive in a different country.
Do a Shot: CHEEZY DIBBLES!
By: BabyRuth (Three Beers) –
In keeping with a new tradition of releasing animated movies featuring birds before a holiday that revolves around eating them, the fan-favorite penguins from the Madagascar franchise get their very own feature film.
Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon), and Private (Christopher Knights) are a self-proclaimed group of super-spies. While on their latest mission to infiltrate Fort Knox to score big- a vending machine full of their favorite food, Cheezy Dibbles- they are captured by the evil Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), who turns out to be a longtime rival they never knew they had.
Brine has a master plan that is a huge threat to penguins everywhere and it’s up to the team to stop him. Also on the case is an elite secret group called The North Wind led by a wolf whose name is so classified that his name is Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch). What follows is a frenzied fast-paced, world-spanning adventure full of intrigue, espionage, and fart jokes.
I was not familiar with the world of Madagascar prior to viewing this film. I only just recently learned that these were not the same penguins from Happy Feet (which I didn’t see either) or March of Penguins (again nope, but the fact that that one wasn’t animated clued me in because nothing gets by me). The filmmakers most likely realized that this would be many viewers’ first time meeting Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private so they treat us to an origin story prologue.
And it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
In Antarctica, several years before, the penguins are being filmed for a documentary narrated by, I shit you not, Werner Herzog. Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico are not content with just following the pack aimlessly and break away while attempting to save a runaway egg. They are led into danger when the egg rolls off a cliff (the best use of 3D in the movie) and into enemy territory where they are surrounded by seals who threaten to eat them.
The penguins save the egg, which turns out to be baby Private (awww), and the four, now permanently separated from the rest of the penguins, set out for a lifetime of globetrotting adventure.
Penguins is a warp-speed, manic ride that never slows down. The well-done animation keeps up and the 3D enhances the action.
The jokes come and go just as fast, and many hit, especially a running gag in which Dr. Octavius Brine aka Dave’s instructions to his crew are a play on celebrity names (the surprise is half the fun so I won’t give any of those away).
The voice-acting is exceptional with the four core characters voiced by the original actors and John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch fitting in nicely, each seeming to have a ball with their roles.
It’s too bad that the rest of the film never quite lives up to the brilliant opening sequence, both in the smart writing and animation/effects. Once the story moves to present-day and the penguins’ latest mission to save their kind from Dr. Brine/Dave, it goes off the hinges bonkers and the story feels rushed and overloaded in an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink kind of way. It gets exhausting after awhile and sort of feels as though the writers are making it up as they go along (likely in between bites of cheesy snacks and tokes of pot.)
There is no way marijuana was not involved somewhere in the production of this movie.
Penguins never pretends to be anything less than zany entertainment, and that’s fine, but with this year’s earlier animated offerings such as The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and Dreamworks’ own (criminally under-seen) How To Train Your Dragon 2, it feels like a step back.
This is one of those animated films that features lots of movement and colors to keep children amused, while throwing in pop culture references and jokes that go over the little ones’ heads for the adults. Again, nothing wrong with that, but anyone hoping for more should maybe just stay home and watch a Pixar film (or How To Train Your Dragon 2, now on DVD- seriously, why did this wonderful movie under-perform at the box office?)
While it won’t rank anywhere near the top greatest animated films of all time (or this year), Penguins of Madagascar is harmless, cheesy dibble fun. There are some laughs, the 3D effects are often inventive and impressive, and the movie moves along at a fast clip, never over-staying its welcome. Perfect to keep the kids occupied while parents zone out in their post-Thanksgiving dinner food-hangover.