"Dude, this car kicks ass! And I can watch Madagascar when I'm driving! Dude, those animals are so fucking funny! They make me wanna merge without looking! YEAH, RUMSFELD!"
Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway...
Sorry, couldn't resist. Anyway...
Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor
Penguins of Madagascar is a low-brow, stupid movie that treats its target audience like idiots... but at the same time, I can't deny that it kind of works on the low level it sets for itself. Its characters and story were paper-thin, it exists solely as a vehicle for yuks and mucks, and not every joke hit its target, but enough of them did that I was constantly at least chuckling as the movie wore on. These penguins didn't do much to challenge my impression of the Madagascar films (side note: this is the first film in the series I've seen), but it's not something I'd change the channel on if I were flipping through channels.
The film follows four Antarctic penguins, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private, as they go on spy adventures. They encounter an evil octopus named Dave (voiced by John Malkovich) who wants to kidnap all the penguins at the world's zoos and mutate them into monsters, his revenge for how their cuteness caused him to be abandoned by every zoo that picked him up. They escape his clutches and are rescued by the North Wind, an international animal espionage agency that helps animals in peril. Together, they plot to take down Dave and save the penguins. Honestly, I couldn't be bothered to give a whit about any of the story here. The opening in Antarctica was great, and there's one moment where this film comes close to self-awareness near the beginning, where the villain is ranting about how the penguins kept stealing his limelight at the zoo (and who were the Madagascar series' breakout characters who got their own movie?), but otherwise, it's pretty much a vehicle for jokes. Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Peter Stormare, and Annet Mahendru are all entertaining as the North Wind agents, but they're largely wasted in their roles, the characters never really adding up to anything. As for the titular penguins, I'd have been more interested in their growing acceptance of Private, the adopted fourth member of their team, if not for the fact that that subplot is treated as an afterthought until the third act.
But let's be honest, if you're watching a Madagascar movie for the story and characters, you deserve to feel ripped off walking out. The important question is, was this movie funny? Yeah, it was. I had a good enough time watching it that I felt that the ticket price was worth it. (Though I did see it at the Cinemaworld 16 that only charges $6 for an evening ticket.) It's pretty much your usual DreamWorks Animation humor -- fart jokes, pratfalls, bodily fluids, a great joke about the bombastic soundtracks to action movies, and a running gag involving Dave's henchmen being named after celebrities that even the film eventually realized was being overused. I didn't bust my gut laughing, but I had a big fat smile on my face for most of the run time. Any kids watching this will undoubtedly be entertained. It also helps that, as usual for DreamWorks, the animation here is really good. Not jaw-dropping, or anywhere close to their best, but still nice to look at even in 2-D.
Score: 3 out of 5
If your kids are sick of watching Frozen on repeat, this will entertain them for ninety-two minutes, and you won't be bored out of your mind or grievously insulted either. It's nowhere near DreamWorks Animation's best, but it's still solid entertainment.