Penguins of Madagascar review
Penguins of Madagascar both is and isn’t the typical animated film of the 21st century. Like so many animated movies, it’s steeped in franchise being both a spin-off and based on a television series (“The Penguins of Madagascar”). Unlike all the others, the core voice cast isn’t comprised of celebrities as the penguins’ voices come from animators, directors, and general DreamWorks team players. While the penguins were certainly a treat for the older audience members who saw the Madagascar movies, leading a movie of their own was a different ball game. Penguins of Madagascar is simply too clever for its targeted child audience and becomes more of a lighter animation for the adults who would appreciate all the jokes. While certainly evoking laughter like an animated film ought, the funniest part of the movie doesn’t even arrive until mid-credits when the beloved lemurs King Julien and Mort pop in for a cameo.
The movie isn’t without celebrity voices, however. Pop culture icon Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock,” The Imitation Game), comedic actor Ken Jeong (“Community,” Transformers: Dark of the Moon), and character actor Peter Stormare (“The Blacklist,” 22 Jump Street) lend their voices as the penguins’ competitors in all things covert and elite, The North Wind. Two-time Academy Award nominee John Malkovich (“Crossbones,” RED 2) provides the villainous voice for Dave—an evil genius octopus out to get his revenge on the penguins. Perhaps most the distracting aspect of the film is the fact that Cumberbatch still hasn’t shaken the “pengwing” flub from his documentary narration debacle.
It isn’t a colossal surprise that the movie took a dive at the box office in favor of a third Hunger Games and Disney’s Big Hero 6. A lot of the jokes work for Penguins of Madagascar, but they’re mostly suited toward pop-culture references and the penguins’ hilarious deadpan demeanor. The funniest facet of the television cartoon of the same title is the dynamic between the militaristic penguins and the delusional, care-free lemurs. The lemurs are reduced to a cameo in order to take the penguins worldwide when perhaps it would have suited the filmmakers to include them for the comedic value. The serious penguins are matched up with the equally serious North Wind, there’s just a lot of conflict with little humor.
Although lacking the sorely-needed lemurs and (at times) the correct pronunciation of “penguins”, Penguins of Madagascar is a clever movie that may not make the younger family member laugh as much as the older ones will chuckle. Fans of the cartoon series will particularly enjoy seeing the origin scene at the beginning. After diving at the box office and spending too much time making the grown-ups laugh, it isn’t likely the penguins will headline a sequel.