The Penguins Should Stay on TV

Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

Courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

The holidays are a season when families get together to enjoy some quality time together and make the trek to the movie theatres.  As a fan of the DreamWorks Animation studio “Madagascar” series and their spin-off show “The Penguins of Madagascar,” I thought I was in for a treat of laughter, a compelling story and decent family entertainment. The premise of the television show is simple yet fun, as four incredibly talented and mischievous penguins go on random adventures and solve mysteries.

Despite its TV success, the transition to the big screen really falls short. With an incoherent storyline and hardly compelling characters, this feature barely holds one’s attention for more than a few minutes at a time and loses the interest of all but the youngest audience members.

Our adventure starts out very promising and is led by the four penguins and their impressive voice acting. Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) are the backbone of this story as they go undercover with the spy organization the North Wind in order to stop the villain Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich) from inflicting revenge against the world.

These penguins really hold the spotlight on their own when it comes to this film, as brilliant animation and their well-timed voice acting really create an at times hilarious experience. The actors try their best to make up for a weak script which does little when it comes to character development and plot.

Likewise, Malkovich’s villain character is really quirky and shines more in his style than substance of what he’s saying or doing. One example is a repeated pun Malkovich says when commanding his octopus army saying, “Nicolas, cage them, and Charlize, they’re on the ray.” Jokes like this are far too childish to be amusing for adults and probably fly over the heads of younger viewers as well.

Much less appealing than the charismatic penguins are the secret agents of the North Wind, led by Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch). Though his character possess bravado and a great voiceover, the film could have been the same without the group’s inclusion. This team goes nowhere plot-wise, especially when it comes to keeping the audience interested. It seems as if the film writers just mailed it in and decided to write a film with great voiceover and no apparent of cohesive story. There’s no pathos and no real reason for me to care much about any of the characters other than the mere fact that the penguins are cool and even kind of cute.

This film is really aimed towards a younger audience who will glaze over the action scenes and lack of a compelling plot to enjoy seeing their favorite “Madagascar” penguins on the big screen.

Although the writing is subpar, a definite plus was the direction and pacing, especially during action sequences. This seems trivial though as most audience members expect decent visuals when it comes to animated films. What really should set apart a good film is its attention to characterization and story. Likewise, although scenes and action are fast and frequent, it doesn’t really add to the blandness of this film. Aside than for their jokes, sheer boldness and cool attitudes, these penguins’ film feature is not able to hold its own.

“The Penguins of Madagascar” is a passably entertaining film time in the joke department, but really fails to inspire any interest in its story, characters and direction. It’s a shame that such a great ensemble of voice actors had to carry the dead weight that is this film’s script.


NOT RECOMMENDED: This movie falls flat and will disappoint any “Madagascar” fan. Avoid and just stick to the television series for now.