Pin It

TV at the Movies 

The familiar Penguins of Madagascar takes to the big screen

click to enlarge TV's most famous penguins.
  • TV's most famous penguins.

What's black and white and, at first, a bit of a blur? That'd be the penguin leads of this latest feature from DreamWorks Animation. Regular viewers of the Emmy Award-winning Nickelodeon series The Penguins of Madagascar — a spin-off of 2005's Madagascar, which also spawned two film sequels — should have no problem identifying old friends. But unless you're especially sensitive to height or a signature hair tuft, the newcomer may have some trouble telling Skipper from Rico from Kowalski, all introduced (as their younger selves) amidst a whirr of droll dialogue, acrobatic action, and an inspired cameo from Werner Herzog.

Does it matter? You get the drift. Voiced by Tom McGrath (co-director of the Madagascar series), Skipper is the leader of a ragtag group of amateur secret agents. Kowalski (Chris Miller) is the brains, while wild-eyed Rico (Conrad Vernon) boasts a special weapon in his propulsive powers of regurgitation. Young Private (Christopher Knights) is the foundling they meet at the film's beginning and coddle like a little brother, but Private wants to be taken seriously now.

And these are serious (OK, seriously silly) times, what with a mad octopus named Dave (John Malkovich) determined to wipe out the world's penguin population. Skipper's unit is on the case, but another, more elite organization called the North Wind has dibs; it's led by Benedict Cumberbatch's supercilious, espresso-drinking wolf dubbed "Classified" and includes a sexpot owl named Eva — disappointingly, the lone female in the film.

That is perhaps too many words dispatched on a plot that's hardly the point. A merry entertainment with no pretense of greatness, Penguins of Madagascar is all about antics, verbal and visual. A common complaint of modern animated films is that the comedy tries too hard to be adult; arguably, the Penguins script (by John Aboud, Michael Colton, and Brandon Sawyer) tilts too near "Dad humor" (oy, these puns). But the film moves so fast, failed jokes are forgotten easily, and its commitment to daffiness strikes the right chord. And, oh yes: Even computer-generated penguins really are just the cutest. ♦


Penguins of Madagascar
Rated PG · 92 minutes · 2014
Official Site:
Director: Eric Darnell and Simon Smith
Producer: Lara Breay, Mark Swift, Tom McGrath, Mireille Soria and Eric Darnell
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru and Peter Stormare

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Penguins of Madagascar

Tags: , , ,

  • Pin It

Speaking of Film, Review

Latest in Film

  • Mind the Gap
  • Mind the Gap

    20th Century Women offers a compassionate take on generational shifts
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Golden Arches
  • Golden Arches

    Michael Keaton gives us the story of McDonald's in the Founder
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Print (and Reprint) the Legend
  • Print (and Reprint) the Legend

    Jackie keeps repeating its intriguing ideas about turning people into icons
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Redvolt, Peru Resh, Wasted Breath

Redvolt, Peru Resh, Wasted Breath @ Mootsy's

Sat., Jan. 21, 9 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks


More by Kimberley Jones

  • Missed Connections
  • Missed Connections

    The Girl on the Train isn't the next Gone Girl
    • Oct 13, 2016
  • Third Time, No Harm
  • Third Time, No Harm

    Kung Fu Panda 3 doesn't reinvent the franchise, but that's totally fine
    • Jan 28, 2016
  • Historical Miss
  • Historical Miss

    Bryan Cranston does what he can with the flawed Trumbo
    • Nov 25, 2015
  • More »

Most Commented On

Top Tags in
Music & Film




Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Spy vs. Spy

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. carves out a unique space in a crowded espionage marketplace
    • Aug 12, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation