They gave us masterpieces like “Chicken Run” and “Shrek,” but also “Flushed Away” and “The Croods.” So, yeah, Dreamworks is mercurial.
This time the “mercurial” drops below zero as we travel to Antarctica in the aptly named “Penguins of Madagascar.” It is here, 10 years prior to their 2012 appearance in “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” that Skipper, Kowalski and Rico first broke ranks from hundreds of thousands of their kind in pursuit of a bouncing egg which strands them on an iceberg where the egg eventually hatches.
Ten years pass and the sphenisciforms find themselves jacking a vending machine at Fort Knox over a snack-size bag of generic Cheetos. Only, it’s not a vending machine, it’s actually an Octopus (voiced by John Malkovich) doing his impersonation of a T-1000 from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
I know what you’re thinking … what’s a sphenisciform?
Anyway, the octopus has it in for the penguins because he used to be the zoo headliner. Then the cute penguins arrived and he was relegated to a lesser zoo until that zoo received their own creche. And on went the cycle until Dave — that’s the Octopus’ name and I know, I know, you’re mumbling, “What’s a creche and someone really should have warned me that a dictionary was going to be required!” — figured out he could invent a machine to make the penguins repugnant and thus reclaim his rightful place in the aquatic house of the Central Park Zoo.
They guys get some help from a covert force called the “North Wind” (whose voices include Benedict Cumberbatch and Ken Jeong).
Aside from sharp animation, hyperactivity and quick dialog, all of which have become ubiquitous, there is little here that stands out. The film stretches a few weak comic devices which were hit or miss for the audience at my screening. Like the thing with the names. “Drew, Barry, more power,” “Nicolas, cage them,” and, “Charlize, there on the …” You get the idea. Requisite sipping from a “clam juicebox” and groaners like “You mermaid my day” pretty much sum this one up.
What was clever wasn’t exploited. An entire film could have been made of their yanking documentarians’ cranks instead of just the few seconds we got here.
Like its progenitor, this one is juvenile at best.
Med City Movie Guy’s rating: 2 Honks
Fair enough, if you’ve never actually smelled them, penguins are cute and lovable. On the little screen we grew-up with “Chilly Willy” and “Tennessee Tuxedo.” In film, they’ve waddled their way into our hearts, as well.
Dick Van Dyke danced with penguins (it was the psychedelic ’60s, after all) in the Disney classic, “Mary Poppins.”
One of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” liked Charlie Chaplin films, naturally, in this not too bad 2011 Jim Carrey family comedy.
The stars of “March of the Penguins” were already dressed for their walk down the Oscar red carpet where, in 2005, this documentary won an Academy Award.
Danny DeVito preened his feather as The Penguin in Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns,” a role for which he received two nominations: “Best Villain” from MTV, and a Razzie. Ironically, the actor got his start in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
The box-office success of “Happy Feet” made audiences and studio execs do the happy dance. The animated charmer featured a big name cast including Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.
Finally, it was as if “The Far Side” came to life in the 1993 Nick Parks short “The Wrong Trousers.” Fundamentally a solid Wallace and Gromit adventure in Parks’ wonderful signature stop-motion clay animation style, this one introduced a mysterious houseguest, a penguin named “Feathers McGraw.” Intriguing and comical.