The Penguins of Madagascar Review


By: Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

When I mention the animals lion, zebra, hippopotamus, and giraffe in the same sentence, what comes to mind? Ok, zoo… Africa… Animals… Ok. How about if I add in Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith? Madagascar! Yes, there you go. And what does everyone look forward to from the Madagascar movies, provided you actually watch them? Yes, the penguins! Well, like the upcoming Minions movie, DreamWorks has made a feature film based on the adorable guys in black and white. Ladies and gentlemen: The Penguins of Madagascar.

We begin in Madagascar where a young Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), and Rico (Conrad Vernon) chase down a runaway egg, as they’d never leave a soldier behind. They try to rescue the egg, while a documentary crew gives us the play-by-play, yet off a cliff they go. The egg hatches and we have a baby Private (Christopher Knights) and our military super spy group of penguins is formed. Fast forward to present day, and there’s a plot to kidnap all the world’s penguins and turn them into something less cute. Who is behind this devious plan (if you really want to call it devious)? Dave (John Malkovich), an octopus who was in the same zoo as the penguins but never got any attention due to everyone wanting to see the cute penguins. So Skipper and the team must stop Dave’s plan, but also working to stop Dave is a paramilitary foursome called North Wind, comprised of a wolf named Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), an otter, an owl, and a polar bear. Will the eight members of the team be enough to stop Dave’s plan of penguin destruction?


Despite how simple the story is, DreamWorks is able to fill it to the gills with material. The penguins travel literally all around the world, from Antarctica to Fort Knox, to Shanghai on to Brazil. They do skip France, however, due to their tax laws. And each location gives our penguin quartet some form of obstacle to overcome, some baddies to face, or clues to find. But despite the generic nature of the film, it does have a few talking points that we can all learn from, principles of which focus on Private. Private is more of the outcast of the group, without any real skills to note. Skipper is the leader, Kowalski is the brains, and Rico is always ready to blow things up. But Private needs a role, he feels like he needs to find his place, his way to contribute. So it’s up to him to determine who he is as a penguin and show that he, too, is a valuable member to the group. It’s just like a stage many people go through in life where they have to find who they are as a person and where they fit in to this big world.

The story really revolves around the penguins and the shenanigans they get into. We really can’t talk about acting as we aren’t dealing with physical actors, and the additional cast plays their roles in order to help move the story along. But, aside from stopping Dave, this more focuses on Skipper and Private. Skipper needs to realize that he’s been narrow-sighted with his crew, particularly Private. Although he respects his penguins, he doesn’t have confidence in Private. Maybe it’s because Private is the newer member or maybe it’s because Private doesn’t have a role. But a true leader puts his people in positions to be successful, and Skipper needs to find that aspect of himself and give Private responsibility, setting him up for success, and allowing him to showcase what it is he can do.


The Penguins of Madagascar isn’t going to break any animated film records, it isn’t going to leave you reciting lines from the film, and it won’t even be very memorable a few hours later. It has its moments of entertainment, a few legitimate laughs here and there, but for the most part, it is a by-the-book type of script devoid of anything new or groundbreaking, much like the Madagascar films. And, despite it coming out a few weeks after Big Hero 6, Big Hero 6 has a good chance of performing better this week. Will your children be entertained with the film? Most likely. Is it worth spending over $50 for an hour and a half of entertainment? Definitely not. These penguins should have stayed in Madagascar.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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