The Watchers

The Watchers

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Review: Penguins Of Madagascar (UK cert U)

Quite often, animated films will feature minor characters that make a big impression. Scrat in the Ice Age films and Gru's Minions in Despicable Me are prime examples. You can also add the penguins from the Madagascar films to that list. Their antics- especially the zoo break in the first Madagascar film- are, for me, the highlights of that movie. But can they carry a film all on their own? 

Yes, they certainly can.

The plot- such as it is- sees Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Private (Christopher Knights) and Rico (Conrad Vernon) go up against Dave the Octopus (John Malkovich) who wants revenge against the cute and cuddly critters. The penguins are aided/abetted by an elite unit called North Wind, led by a suave wolf whose name is Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch). 

Malkovich and Cumberbatch are arguably the biggest names in the film and both seem to be having an absolute ball. It's also heartening to see that the studio resisted the urge to add star names as the voices of the penguins, with McGrath, Miller and Knights reprising their roles from the Madagascar films (and TV series) and Vernon in place of John DiMaggio.

The script is occasionally corny, occasionally cheesy, but there's an awful lot to laugh at: the running gag of Dave's commands to his octopi minions forming the names of well-known actors (eg  'Nicolas, cage them' or 'Elijah, would you...') works well and there's a great scene where Dave contacts the North Wind but can't get the microphone to work. There's also a nicely sly dig at penguin documentaries with a voiceover provided by Werner Herzog.

At 92 minutes, it doesn't outstay its welcome. Children will be entertained and there's some great jokes to keep the adults amused too. A decent slice of silly, family fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5


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