I have never been a fan of the “Madagascar” series. It struck me as suffering from the Dreamworks winking at the audience and being far too aware of whatever it was it was trying to satire, as well as being way to clued into popular culture, which in the end takes away from the jokes. Again, this isn’t a series I hate but I’ve never sought out this series and will be surprised if I ever do. What lead to me watching “Penguins of Madagascar” than? I have younger kids in the family over Thanksgiving and I’m not someone to miss out on a chance to spend more time with family or to miss the chance to see a film…even if it’s one I probably won’t like.
This film, like the first “Madagascar” movie wasn’t bad. It was really stupid but it had some funny moments so it wasn’t bad. There was a lot it could have done better, but I think it set out to accomplish what it wanted to…afterall the Penguins are spin-off characters in the same line as Puss in Boots and the Minions who also got or are getting films. They exist as attempts to make money off the legacy of the larger films they come from…usually because they are the characters who became popular because of original said film series. But, enough on that. Let’s get to the film!
“The film was directed by Simon J. Smith and Eric Darnell, produced by Mark Swift, Lara Breay and Tripp Hudson, and written by John Aboud, Michael Colton, Brandon Sawyer, Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell once more.
The premise is that three penguins break away from being followers unlike all other penguins when they see an egg blown from the snow. It is here the three penguins (Skipper, Kowalski and Rico) save the egg from Leopard seals and begin the adventure with the newest member of their group, Private. From here the story unfolds as all Private wants is to truly be a part of the team as everyone else is specialized in some way but can’t as he is not taken seriously because he is cute. All that soon changes as an evil Octopus names Dave plots to destroy the Penguins forcing them to work an elite force who is called the North Wind. From here the story unfolds.
Here is the assessment of the film:
The Pros: The Penguins – The Penguins have a great dynamic and are fun to watch. Private is a bit idiotic at times but thinks well in a jam, Skipper is adaptable and good at getting out of tight spots, Rico is unhinged and deadly and able to take on most threats and Kowalski is able to assess threats. They do a fantastic job in this and minus the changing of Private back to normal were very fun to watch in their interaction with others. They take themselves so seriously, which is the best joke through it all. They are also contractions which makes their debates with others good. Tom McGrath is the most distinct as he voices Skipper the leader, Kowalski is voiced by Chris Miller, Rico mostly growls but is voiced by Conrad Vernon and Private is voiced by Christopher Knights. The Penguins basic arc is learning to accept help from other and admit when they’re wrong and to value Private beyond his cuteness and accept as a member of the team.
Okay: Dave – John Malkovich does a good job as the baddie and gets some good laughs and actually has a good reason for his motivation as he was forced into smaller and smaller tanks everytime the penguins were at his zoos. This leads to him making them ugly monsters, which he actually succeeds in before Private’s cuteness powers his ray puts everything back to normal for the most part. This also leads to Dave’s defeat as he is shrunk and made cute. He was a creepy character but also sympathetic at times which shows that, that at least was done well.
North Wind – The North Wind was okay but not super memorable. I get they were meant to satire the technological badasses in spy films and it does satire this when their plan falls apart and they make not of why you should look back after you’ve exploded something…but they were mostly Skipper’s team’s foil and I didn’t get much character from them. I put them as okay because Cumberbatch’s Classified at least had personality and a character where he grew to respect the penguins, which is more than can be said for the rest of the team.
The Cons: Too Many Puns – I like puns, I make puns all the time…this movie had too many. Most were related to the names of Octopus who were given celebrity names like Hugh Jack man, etc. The puns were pretty weak and I tired of them quickly.
Madagascar References – It starts with the “I like to Move It” song and even the Penguins point out how tired they are of that song…and also the King Julien is able to use his cute assistant to change Private back to normal which completely removes Private’s sacrifice. I’d have preferred they kept him purple, spotted and horned. It would have been a thing for the team and him to adapt to and show the consequences of his sacrifice.
No Consequences – Private being retconned was lazy because they probably knew him remaining a monster wouldn’t sell toys. So not very impressed that they changed him back, even if it was predictable.
This was a fun stupid film that succeeded sometimes at the satire, and other times had jokes lag on for way too long. Also most of the minor characters didn’t feel like characters and functioned mostly as plot devices which just didn’t lend itself well to giving the story consequences. This is a shame but I also don’t expect great out of “Madagascar” as a series. It is stupid fun first and foremost…just doesn’t take any risks within that. The Penguins are great as characters but not anyone else. Little kids will probably like this film but this is no “Wreck-It-Ralph,” or “How to Train Your Dragon.”
Final Score: 7 / 10. Wouldn’t see it again but it was stupid fun.