Movie review: Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

Penguins. Need I say more?

Originally I was going to see the Madagascar films and then the penguin spinoffs in order. But Netflix is now streaming Penguins of Madagascar, so I jumped forward from the first Madagascar film to the ones devoted to the penguin troupe: Skipper, Rico, Kowalski, and Private.

For those not in the know, the penguins are routinely involved in rescue operations. Skipper leads the bunch, Rico eats everything around (including an attempt to eat Kowalski), Kowalski cites the odds of success for anything they do, and Private wants to participate but plays the role of cute penguin.

Penguins of Madagascar starts with our fearless penguins on a mission: breaking into Fort Knox—only it’s not what you think. They aren’t there to save the gold from a thief or protect the area. They break into Fort Knox to gain access to the vending machine that contains Cheesy Dibbles.

But the evil octopus Dave awaits them. Dave (voiced by John Malkovich) is quite miffed about their penguin cuteness, actually about all penguin cuteness. He found himself pushed aside in zoo after zoo. People wanted to see the penguins, not an ugly octopus. Now Dave is out for his revenge. He is gathering up all the penguins throughout the world and he is going to zap them with a green goo that will make all the penguins ugly monsters.

Our penguin heroes find themselves teaming up with the North Wind, an elite rescue group that saves animals. North Wind consists of the leader—a gray wolf voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch—a polar bear, a seal, and a snowy owl.

Private, who we sadly see wanting to play a more active role in the rescue missions the penguins are on, actually takes center stage in saving his friends, North Wind, and all of penguin-kind. In the end, he sacrifices his cuteness to save the cuteness of all penguins in the world. At the end of the movie, he is left with moose antlers and a purple spottedness—not the normal cuteness associated with penguins.

The penguins do lots of silly and cute things throughout the movie. They try to move undetected by rolling through a crossway with painted white stripes; as they roll, their white bellies are up blended with the white stripes and their black backs are up blended with the black between the white stripes.

In another scene, they blend into a crowd of people by acting as penguin backpacks on the backs of children. One person even opens one of them (Rico) in a search for an item. (Remember, Rico eats everything so there are lots of things to rummage through when the person opens up the backpack, aka Rico’s mouth.)

Kowalski, sort of the brains of the outfit, if one could call him that, finds himself attracted to the intelligent and beautiful Eva, the snowy owl in North Wind. He tries in vain to gain her attention. Finally, at one point Eva does grab him and lift up her wing to shelter from prying eyes kisses she gives him.

Penguins of Madagascar is an entertaining movie. As with Madagascar, I am left with a question about one of the characters. In Madagascar, the question was: how did King Julian become a fixture in the Central Park Zoo? In Penguins of Madagascar, the question is: does Private ever revert back to his normal cuteness or does he live out the rest of his life with moose antlers and a spotted purpleness?

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