Sunday, December 7, 2014

Black & White & All Over the Screen

If you're looking for a movie that (a) you can take the young fry to and (b) doesn't involve large men in red suits, and you've already seen the superior Big Hero 6 (reviewed here), you could do worse than buying tickets to Penguins of Madagascar. While it'll help if you have a base understanding of the Madagascar characters, it's not a requirement. I did just fine. Penguins is a short film, coming in at just over 90 minutes, and it's fun. It's not a animated film for the ages, but it rises above simply being okay. The vocal talent provides solid entertainment and I doubt that John Malkovich (playing Dave, or Debbie, or Ramirez; Skipper has a hard time with the name) has had that much fun making a movie in years. For the grown-ups, there's a great running gag of movie star names being used for hench-octopi, such as "Nicolas! Cage the prisoners!" or "Kevin! Bake on - we'll still need that victory cake!"

The penguins get themselves into quite a mess with Dave, a brilliant, yet disturbed, octopus who blames the cute flightless birds for his drop in popularity. Fortunately, a highly-secret group, the North Wind (think arctic animals as super-spies) is on the case. Led by Agent Classified, this team clashes with the penguins who have their own plan to save their family - as well as a peculiar liking for a Cheetos-type snack. (Funny bit here - Agent Classified is voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, who mispronounced "penguin" all the way through. I guess everyone thought it was just an "actor's choice," but no. The man genuinely didn't know how to say "pen-gwen.")

Penguins has some nice things to say about what makes a family (hint - it's not DNA) and that everybody wants to be loved and appreciated. While it probably won't be a movie that sticks with you for all that long, it's cleverly done and worth the ticket price, although holding off for this one to be a rental wouldn't be a bad idea. Dreamworks still isn't Pixar, but it's trying and in Penguins, you can see the effort.

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