I’ll open with a confession, which is that I don’t really like the Madagascar films. The first one is boring, I didn’t see the second one, and the third one is just ok. Even with that said, I was really looking forward to watching Penguins of Madagascar. Much like Scrat in the Ice Age franchise, the Penguins steal every scene they’re in, and they’re just so cute, something that’s heavily referenced throughout they’re solo feature debut. But also like Scrat, I have doubts as to whether they could pull off their own film.
Even though I haven’t seen any episodes, I know that The Penguins have their own TV show, which has run for three seasons, and that’s probably a better format for them. This film has some great sequences, the plane escape that featured heavily in the trailers is a particular highlight, but the film as a whole is lacking something. The episodic nature of the story also doesn’t help, as it further adds to the feeling that this should have been part of a series, and not a self contained story.
That being said, I laughed a lot during this film. The Penguins themselves were spot on, with each of them having a distinct personality, and each providing a different kind of humour. They were also completely awesome, pulling off some crazy spy action, even if some of it was by mistake. We’re also introduced to another (much more capable) group of spies, called The North Wind. These new characters were highly underused, especially when you consider the voice cast they added, which included of Benedict Cumberbatch and Ken Jeong, although it was a good way to introduce more toys to their Christmas collection. I mean… characters to their franchise.
The problem Penguins of Madagascar faces is that the standard of animated film has become so high in recent years. Specifically, many animated films have a lot of heart, and have been able to put a lot of emotion into their stories, and that’s what this film is lacking. There is a story thread that tries to pull on the audience’s heart strings, but I can’t see it reducing anybody to tears.
Penguins of Madagascar is probably my favourite film in the Madagascar franchise. There are some clever jokes (there are a lot of very good puns), great slapstick, and the general pace of the film relentless, however when compared to other recent films in the genre it does fall slightly short.
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