It’s a difficult task to take a popular comic relief character and give them their own film; their shtick may work in small doses but it could get exhausting when stretched over 90 minutes. Sometimes the results can be good, such as Finding Dory or DreamWorks’ own Puss in Boots, but other times you may end up with a Minions, Cars 2, or Pirates of the Caribbean 4. I could imagine there was some worry when it came to Penguins of Madagascar. The Penguins were always considered the highlights of the Madagascar films and, even though they have been doing well on TV for a few years, some were skeptical that they could carry an entire movie on their own. Fortunately I feel Penguins of Madagascar works really well and is actually one of the funniest animated films in the DreamWorks catalog.
Taking place after the events of Madagascar 3, the Penguins sneak away from the circus to celebrate Private’s birthday by breaking into Fort Knox (of course). But they’re ambushed by an octopus named Dave who has a grudge against all penguins for stealing all the attention at every zoo he’s ever been to simply because of their cuteness. He plans to mutate penguins into monsters so people won’t find them cute and cuddly anymore, but the Penguins are saved by an animal secret agent team known as the North Wind led by Agent Classified (seriously, that’s his real name). They then have to cooperate as best they can to stop Dave and save all of penguin-kind as they know it.
Just from that synopsis this movie sounds incredibly silly, but that’s actually the movie’s biggest strength. It completely relishes how goofy it is. This movie takes the rules of logic, hits them with a sledgehammer, sets them on fire, dances around the ashes and flies them to Jupiter. If you need an example of this, there’s a scene where the Penguins fall out of an airplane and inflate a bounce castle midair in order to land safely, and it works. How? Because physics doesn’t exist.
The film’s main purpose, like with the other Madagascar films, is to have some fun character interactions while telling plenty of jokes with some cool visual gags, and a majority of that really lands. There were several parts where I was just laughing out loud at the absurdity of them. For example, one of the jokes involving Dave uses wordplay as he calls his henchmen (or hench-octopi) celebrity name puns: “Nicholas, Cage them” and “Hugh, Jack, man the battle stations.” Most of these caught me off-guard at points, and I couldn’t help but laugh at them.
Obviously, from DreamWorks, the animation is going to be top notch and this is no exception. It’s highly energized and the character designs are enjoyably cartoony. The best part in terms of the animation has to be on Dave. His expressions, the way he moves, the way he shape shifts – it’s just so amazing to watch (and yes, he shape shifts into a human scientist. Just roll with it).
The Penguins themselves are just as fun here as they were in the other movies, and they were able to carry a film more than I thought they would. The North Wind are fun foils for the Penguins and the celebrities cast to voice them do a really good job, especially Benedict Cumberbatch as Classified. Out of all of the main players, I feel Private gets the most development as he wants to be a valued member of the team but the other penguins don’t see him as any more than “the cute one.”
Penguins of Madagascar isn’t very deep or groundbreaking by any means, but it’s not trying to be. It mainly serves to make people laugh, and I thought it definitely succeeded. I’d even go as far as to say that I think this is the best film of the Madagascar franchise. If you’re a fan of this series or are just in the mood for some silly cartoon fun, this is definitely worth a watch. If you’re not a big fan or you care too much about things making sense, I don’t think this is going to change your mind.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden