I saw this in the cinema when it came out – with my daughter, obviously. I should mention that the only time I go to the cinema these days is to watch kids movies for obvious, parent with young children reasons. So I’m pretty picky about them now. Anyway, I’m using the DVD release of the film to write the review I didn’t write at the time.
I went into Penguins of Madagascar with low expectations. Things I’d heard: nothing for the grown-ups, a bit facile and overly reliant on slap stick. So when it went way beyond my expectations, I was fairly thrilled.
As for this nothing for the grow-ups malarkey: the first five minutes of the film is an extended Werner Herzog joke. It flew over the head of my daughter and, to be fair, most of the rest of the cinema audience we were in (one particular woman near-by was looking at me strangely as I giggled convulsively). Who was that for if not the grown ups?
The rest of the film is a surrealist comedy masterwork. It features, in no particular order:
- Benedict Cumberbatch voicing a megalomaniacal wolf.
- A scene in which the penguins jump from airplane to airplane in mid air, and then eventually use a bouncy castle to save themselves.
- A psychotic octopus named Dave, voiced by John Malkovich.
- A scene in which the penguins try and break into Fort Knox, succeed in doing so, only in the end to be after the contents of one particular vending machine in said mega-bank.
- Battling gondolas in Venice.
- The penguins mistaking Shanghai for Dublin (!), from there having themselves couriered to Shanghai from Shanghai (the Fed Ex truck drives around the block), only for them to remark about how real to life Shanghai’s “Little Dublin” neighbourhood is when they re-emerge.
So if you’re looking for something you can watch with your kids that you’ll enjoy as well, The Penguins of Madagascar is perfect. Don’t believe the bad reviews you might have read (although I note looking back on it that most of the bad reviews came from America, while the reviews on this side of the Atlantic were mostly positive). I sit through a lot of kids films these days, so I should know. Better than The Lion King, even today. Although having now said that, I should disclose the fact that any film that begins with a five-minute Werner Herzog joke needs to go severely downhill from there not to gain my stamp of approval.