‘Penguins of Madagascar’ an Enjoyable Ride

by Joe Jarosz on November 26, 2014

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Solid Rock Fist Up]

There’s two running gags in Penguins of Madagascar in which I probably laughed at more than any normal adult would have. Emphasis on the normal. The first gag has the evil octopus Dave, aka Dr. Octavius Brine (voiced by John Malkovich in his first animated role) shouting orders at his octopus minions, all the while using current living actors in the command. For example, “Nic, Cage those penguins” was one of my favorite.

The other gag that I took too much delight in was whenever the penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private faced off against Dave, Skipper (Tom McGrath) always got the name wrong. Not just slightly wrong, but calling him the most random names that sound nothing close to Dave, often girls’ names as well.

The actor name pun gag was probably more for adults who either went with their children or just love animated movies. I don’t think the average 10-year-old knows Nic Cage. But the second gag, that’s for everyone and often got the most laughs because I like to think Skipper wasn’t doing so out of hatred of Dave. He just genuinely couldn’t remember his name. Which is, from the laughs in the audience, funny to people of all ages.

The film sets the tone early, with Werner Herzog making a cameo as a documentary filmmaker, following the migration pattern of penguins. When three Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico (Chris Miller and Conrad Vernon, respectfully) break free to rescue an egg that has fallen behind, the filmmaker follows, only to push them into harms way for better footage. Once free of trouble, the egg hatches, and the group has their final member, Private (Christopher Knights). Together, all three form a team of super-spy penguins.

Dave doesn’t like these penguins, or any penguins for that matter. And he’s constructed a device that turns all cute and cuddly penguins into hideous looking monsters. The four penguins, reluctantly, join forces with an undercover organization, The North Wind, lead by Classified, a Siberian Husky voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, a polar bear, sea lion and an owl. The two teams do not mesh well.

But the teams work together because they know that’s in the best interest for penguins, and other cute animals, across the globe. The film’s main life message to children is acceptance. Everyone serves a purpose in life and when we surround ourselves with the right people, we find out purpose and are accepted a lot quicker and easier. For the penguin team, Skipper, continuously barks orders to Rico and Kowalski, all the while leaving Private out of all the adventures. It’s not until the end that Skipper sees Private is more than just a cute and cuddly penguin. He serves a purposes and with this realization, makes the four penguins stronger. At the same time, the two teams are finally able to bring down the evil Dave — by the way, I love how the film gave the evil genius octopus the plainest name ever — when Classified also comes to the rationalization that the two teams each bring something different to the table in the final battle.

Dreamworks Animation has always looked out for the adults who take their children to movies. From Shrek and The Bee Movie, to How to Train Your Dragon and the movie which spawned the spin-off, Madagascar, the studio makes smart and funny animated movies, all the while possessing enough heart and emotion to not just tug at the heart strings of children, but their adult counterparts as well. Parents won’t get bored when watching the film with the children. And for children, they’ll certainly be entertained by the silliness of the penguins.

Joe Jarosz is a Midwest boy now living in California.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 elizabeth February 7, 2015 at 7:19 pm

im 15 but I love Dave

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