November 26, 2014
The voices of Tom McGrath,
Christopher Knights, Chris
Miller, Conrad Vernon,
Benedict Cumberbatch, John
Mahednru, Ken Jeong, Peter
Stormare, Werner Herzog, Andy
Richter, Danny Jacobs
Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith
More on this movie at IMDb.com
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CHRISTIAN MOVIE REVIEW
Review: Penguins of Madagascar
- Penguins of Madagascar is a delightful, often hilarious animated feature where the lovable team of spy-crazy flightless birds must stop a mad purple octopus bent on the humiliation and destruction of all penguins everywhere. Penguins of Madagascar is an excellent piece of family entertainment that's fairly wholesome and contains really strong, heartwarming moral, redemptive lessons for everyone. The movie stresses the idea of doing the right thing almost throughout its whole running time.
Penguins is structured like a James Bond movie, so the first sequence is a little adventure of its own. This prologue briefly tells the story of how the four penguins got together in Antarctica.
A large line of penguins is marching across Antarctica to another location. At the same time, a small crew of humans is filming the march of the penguins with one crewmen narrating. Playing the crewman is Werner Herzog, a famous German film director who recently has made some English-language nature documentaries.
A very young Skipper, Kowalski and Rico step out of the penguin line and ask the other penguins why they need to march like this across the frozen snow. The other penguins answer that "Nature" dictates they all march like this. Their answer doesn't impress Skipper, who exclaims, "I reject Nature!"
At that moment, a lonely penguin egg starts to roll away down the hill. None of the other penguins go to help it, and Skipper chastises them. Then, he, Kowalski and Rico go after the little egg, which stops precariously on the rocky top of a high slope leading down to a large, rusted abandoned ship. The little egg tumbles down the slope and becomes a large snowball as it gathers the snow in front of it.
Skipper almost tumbles down the dangerous slope trying to save the egg, but Kowalski and Rico grab hold of him. At that point, Skipper sees that the ship down below is swarming with hungry seals, which Skipper calls "nature's sharks." In one of the movie's many funny lines, Kowalski replies, "I thought sharks were nature's sharks, Skipper."
Suddenly, the film crew appears, and the narrator shoves Skipper, Kowalski and Rico down the slope. They tumble down the slope just like the egg. As the egg, Skipper and his friends land on the ship, the snowballs around them dissipate, and Skipper, Kowalski and Rico must save themselves and the egg from the hungry seals. Eventually, the penguins and the egg land on a small iceberg. The egg cracks open and out pops a cute baby penguin. In fact, he's so cute that Skipper, Kowalski and Rico decide to adopt him, and Skipper names him Private.
Cut to 10 years later. The four penguins are bored with the circus life, especially the "Afro Circus" song created by Marty the zebra in the last Madagascar movie. Skipper takes his team to Fort Knox, where America allegedly keeps all its gold. However, the penguins walk right past the gigantic piles of gold bars to a back room where a vending machine offers multiple packs of Cheesy Dibbles, the penguins' favorite snack. It just happens to be Private's birthday, and Skipper gives Private a coin to get a pack of Cheesy Dibbles. The pack doesn't come out, however, and Private goes into the slot to pull it out, but he ends up stuck in the machine.
Just then, the tentacles of a purple octopus grab the other penguins, and shortly after that a mysterious helicopter whisks the vending machine, the penguins and the octopus away. The penguins are taken to a secret submarine in Venice. There, the purple octopus introduces himself as Dave. He tells the penguins he's going to inject them with a mysterious green concoction called "the Medusa Serum." When asked why, he tells them he was the star at every major zoo aquarium around the world, until the penguins with all their cuteness arrived, becoming far more popular and relegating Dave to the background. "You got all the love," Dave tells the penguins. "The rest of us got NOTHING!" So, now Dave wants his revenge.
After a big chase scene, the penguins eventually escape Dave and his octopus soldiers, but they are picked up by a group of animal spies calling themselves "the North Wind." Led by a fox who says his name is "classified" and, therefore, top secret, the North Wind is dedicated to helping animals in trouble. Besides the fox, there's a pretty female owl named Eva, a large polar bear named Corporal and a small white baby seal named Short Fuse.
Dave's evil plan is to kidnap all the zoo and aquarium penguins in the world and inject them with the Medusa Serum, which will turn all the penguins into ugly "monsters." The penguins decide to team up with the North Wind to stop Dave's plan, but the fox with the classified name and his agents don't want any help from "amateurs."
As the animals try to foil Dave, can Skipper and his team gain the respect from the North Wind they deserve? Will Eva pay any attention to Kowalski, who's clearly smitten by the beautiful, no-nonsense spy? Will Rico keep his desire to blow things up in check? Even more important, will Skipper ever acknowledge the contributions that Private is always making to the team?
In the past, the four penguins have created some of the funniest moments in all the Madagascar movies made by DreamWorks Animation. They don't disappoint here. In fact, Penguins of Madagascar is clearly one of the funniest animated movies made in recent years. It's also pretty exciting without being too violent. Best of all, the movie has a lot of heart. Thus, the character relationships and character arcs have several heartwarming moments. They give a really strong emotional strength to the story and all its comical hijinks.
Penguins of Madagascar also has many positive messages.
The movie's basic premise is that love overcomes revenge. Thus, it's the personal bonds between Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private that truly save the day. Also, Private's adorable lovableness actually resolves the plot problem in the third act and helps stop Dave's plan from reaching total success. In fact, Private is ready to sacrifice himself to save not just his friends, but all the penguins, from Dave's evil plot of revenge. The movie even inserts a symbolic death and resurrection into this premise. So, it's the sacrificial love of the most innocent and lowest among us (in this case, Private) that eventually overcomes the malicious revenge of the villain. As a result, Private truly becomes "the most valuable member" of Skipper's team.
Several other positive lessons are included in Penguins of Madagascar.
At one point, Dave captures Private's three friends again. Private decides to go help them, but the North Wind team would rather go back to their headquarters and think up another complicated plan to stop Dave. They even decline to help when Private specifically asks them whether they ever heard of the idea "never leave a man behind." Maybe you should be more like penguins, Private tells them as he goes to save his friends.
Also, just as the movie's premise says that sacrificial love overcomes malice and revenge, it also implies that lack of love creates malice and envy. Thus, when the penguins showed up each time at a zoo or aquarium, the fickle human beings turned their love away from Dave the octopus and toward Skipper and his penguin buddies. This rejection caused Dave to become bitter, angry, envious, and hateful.
Finally, throughout the movie, Private is always seeking the approval of Skipper, the titular father figure of the Penguins of Madagascar. However, Skipper can't see beyond Private's wonderful and harmless cuteness. So, he never recognizes Private's contribution to the team until the end. Then, when he finally does recognize Private, Skipper explicitly tells the others, "It's not how you look, but what you do" that counts.
Penguins of Madagascar is beautifully structured. It mixes all these positive, morally uplifting and redemptive messages, themes and character arcs into a wonderful, extremely entertaining concoction that's rather quite impressive, especially when you start thinking about them. Ultimately, the movie seems to reflect the Christian principle in Romans 12:21, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" or "Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." Whether consciously or not, the filmmakers have made their movie seem even more Christian by showing that the goodness of an act of sacrificial love is the most powerful act of goodness of all. In fact, it isn't until Skipper witnesses Private's act of sacrifice that he comes to recognize the power of Private's contribution to the team.
Penguins of Madagascar is mostly wholesome. The cartoon violence never becomes too over-the-top. There are no obscenities or profanities, although the Medusa Serum does cause one character to grow an arm and hand out of his backside, which Skipper calls a "butt hand." Also, Skipper says the word "heck" several times, and a couple "my goshes" are heard. Penguins also contains a couple passing gas jokes. For instance, the motto of the North Wind is "Nobody breaks the Wind!" Finally, a joke is made about two male penguins accidentally kissing one another, but one of those penguins later falls for a female bird, and there are brief shots of what looks like male and female penguins with their children. There's nothing like the politically correct content in the Happy Feet movies about goofy penguins. In fact, the military values and moral codes of the Penguins of Madagascar heroes are actually a tribute to America's patriotic values of fighting evil with good. As Private says, "Never leave a man behind!"
All in all, Penguins of Madagascar is another exciting, often hilarious animated feature with positive messages from DreamWorks. Caution is advised only for some sensitive younger children, with parental discretion the watchword for Penguins of Madagascar.
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