I’m becoming increasingly convinced that DreamWorks Animation have given up on making films and have instead decided to make a series of 90 minute chase scenes. With some of their output this strategy has resulted in a giant mess, but with others it’s worked surprisingly well, and that’s the case with Penguins Of Madagascar.
Despite the title, this doesn’t really have much to do with the Madagascar films bar the presence of the military-minded penguins and a few jokey references. In the new film Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private come up against a surprising opponent when they meet Dr. Octavius Brine, who seems to be a brilliant human scientist, but is actually an octopus called Dave. The purple cephalopod harbours a hatred of the penguins due to the fact that they used to be loved far more than him at the zoo.
Dave is determined to destroy the fish-loving birds, but Skipper and co. are just as determined to stop him. However then the penguins get picked up by a spy team called The North Wind, led by the arrogant wolf ‘Classified’ (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The North Wind have little time for the Penguins, who they view as inferior animals whose job is purely to be rescued. Unsurprisingly Skipper thinks otherwise. However they may have to work together to take down Dave – as well as realise that just because Private is super-cute, that doesn’t mean he’s also useless.
It is essentially one long chase scene, but it’s funny and uses its ridiculous pace to ensure there’s no time to get bored or realise (at least while you’re watching it) just how contradictory many of its ideas are. You just have to go along for the ride and smile at the vaguely surreal nonsense unfolding on the screen in front of you. It works almost in spite of itself, but it does work.
To be honest in the Madagascar films I found the penguins slightly annoying (just like I can’t even vaguely understand the appeal of Scrat in the Ice Age movies). However given a movie of their own they certainly grew on me, even if Penguin Of Madagascar still can’t decide if they’re brilliant or stupid.
There are some decent special features which focus on entertaining the kids, such as some music videos and a family-friendly making of featurette. However it’s certainly the film that’s the main focus here and on Blu-ray it looks good and will keep a smile on your face.
Overall Verdict: More a chase around the globe than a story, but Penguins Of Madagascar’s lightning pace ensure it never outstays its welcome and most of it is good fun.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac