Review: Penguins of Madagascar Might Be A Cash In But It’s A Good Cash In
Title: Penguins of Madagascar
Director: Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith
Screenwriter: John Aboud (screenplay), Michael Colton (screenplay), Eric Darnell (characters), Tom McGrath (characters), and Brandon Sawyer (screenplay)
Principal Cast (voices): Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, John Malkovich, and Benedict Cumberbatch
The Madagascar movies are an interesting series to look at. They aren’t the best movies but they are very marketable and have made a lot of money. They have made enough money that we’ve arrived at the point where a franchise can spin off from itself. The Penguins in the movies are often cited as the highlights of the movies, but there are plenty of incidences where a beloved side character gets their own movie and it completely falls apart. Now animated movies are a little different because they don’t have the audience projection that comes with action movies. However, I was still leery of Penguins of Madagascar because it looked like the perfect example of a lazy studio cash-in. I have been surprised by stranger things, though, and have witnessed excellent movies come out of worse circumstances.
Penguins of Madagascar is absolutely the lazy cash-in I thought it was, but it is well made with enough jokes that kids will love it and the adults will get a few laughs in as well.
Skipper (Tom McGarth), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon) break away from the festivities of Madagascar 3: Europes Most Wanted to break into Fort Knox for Private’s (Christopher Knights) birthday. However, they aren’t there to steal gold but some elusive junk food from a vending machine. While they are in the vending machine from they are kidnapped by Dave (John Malkovich) who has a vendetta against all penguins. With the help of the North Wind, a wolf named Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), a seal named Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), a polar bear Corporal (Peter Stormare) and a white owl Eva (Annet Mahendru) they must find a way to work together to stop Dave’s plan to destroy the world.
I’d like to note that I go into this movie with only vague memories of the first Madagascar movie and without any kids of my own. I also believe that when you make a kids movie, that doesn’t mean you get to slack off and do something easy. Kids are like sponges that soak in everything they see, so you should try harder to make sure you’re giving them something decent to soak in. That was one of reasons I was worried about Penguins of Madagascar; lazy cash in’s looking to get Thanksgiving children’s money can be terrible.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by Penguins of Madagascar. They are absolutely cashing in on the aspect of the franchise that has caught on the most, much like the upcoming Minion movie. I can only imagine how much the kids in the audience of this movie are going to love it but the parents are going to be entertained as well. That is the cusp of what makes a kids movie truly great, when the parents who are forced to watch it are just as entertained. There is a joke toward the beginning where the penguins stay hidden from security by rolling onto their fronts and backs on black and white lines that made the entire audience laugh. There were quite a few moments of situational humor that were done really well.
The banter between the four penguins is the reason why this movie is being made, and there is plenty of it. We get a brief backstory of the three penguins and how they know each other that is pretty cute, and we can see how much they are care about each other. The script does a great job of giving them plenty of funny dialogue and they play off of each other well. The North Wind animals, with Classified being the highlight, do a great job of a James Bond parody that will probably be a lot funnier to adults than to kids. The reasoning behind Dave’s anger at the penguins makes sense in a very sad kind of way that will make sense to kids. The voice cast also does a great job of giving each of these characters personalities. The three leads have been in three movies together now and have great chemistry, and newcomers like Cumberbatch and Annet Mahendru are great additions to the cast as well. The stand out for me was Malkovich’s over the top turn as Dave.
The movie isn’t perfect, though, and the biggest problem it has is a problem that a lot of animated movies have these days: the 3D. Now the 3D wasn’t poorly calibrated; the animation remained bright and never got blurry for me. The problem is that the technology isn’t quite “there” yet. Everyone knows that 3D is currently a gimmick that studios are using, and there are times that it can add to an experience, or at least not hinder it. Penguins of Madagascar, much like The Book of Life earlier this year, falls under the trap of having 3D that became problematic. As someone who wears glasses full time it doesn’t take a lot for 3D to bother my eyes, and by the end of Penguins of Madagascar my eyes hurt and I had a headache. I like for the 3D to be more subtle; for example Big Hero 6’s 3D didn’t bother me at all, and studios are too excited about the technology to hold back.
This is also an animated movie from Dreamworks so there are plenty of pop culture references and the animation isn’t on par with anything from Pixar yet, but the movie isn’t ugly. Like I said the 3D might be too much, but the movie doesn’t get blurry or dark and that can sometimes come with poorly calibrated 3D. The story also isn’t the most original in the world, but I can understand why the studio wanted to focus on the hijinks of the four leads rather than the story. The plot is really only there to move Skipper, Kowalski, Private, and Rico from one funny moment to another and eventually teach everyone an important lesson about appreciating your friends.
Penguins of Madagascar might not exist for any reason other than to make more money off of the fans of the previous films and while it isn’t the most original movie of the year, there are enough funny moments that children will love it and adults will have a pretty good time. It won’t change your life and will probably be forgotten when the years stronger animated movies are released, but it’s a pretty good time. Just pass on the 3D if you don’t want to get a headache.