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Movie Review

The Penguins of Madagascar

MPAA Rating: PG for mild action and some rude humor.

Reviewed by: Jessica D. Lovett

Better than Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Kids Family Teens Adults
Animation Family Kids IMAX 3D
1 hr. 32 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 26, 2014 (wide—3,600+ theaters)
DVD: March 17, 2015
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

doing the right thing, despite peer pressure

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

don’t judge others merely by their appearance, it’s what they do that counts

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

team work

importance of choosing the right leader

revenge never heals the pain in one’s heart

overcome pain with love, loyalty and self-sacrifice for others

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

spies in the Bible

animals in the Bible

Kid Explorers™
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Benedict CumberbatchClassified (voice)
Ken JeongShort Fuse (voice)
John MalkovichDave (voice)
Tom McGrath … Skipper (voice)
Chris Miller … Kowalski (voice)
Christopher Knights … Private (voice)
Annet Mahendru … Eva (voice)
Peter Stormare … Corporal (voice)
Werner Herzog … Actor (voice)
Sean Lew … Additional voices (voice)
Director: Eric Darnell
Simon J. Smith
Producer: DreamWorks Animation
Pacific Data Images
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Filled to the brim with lightning-fast action sequences and constant witty banter, “The Penguins of Madagascar” aims to entertain both parents and their kids equally. In the almost sold-out theater I went to on opening night, I was not surprised to see several parties of adults without children present at the movie, since its intelligent humor and explosive farce of the James Bond/spy film is plenty entertaining for adults. However, though it is intended to be lighthearted in nature, some of the jokes not only go over kids’ heads, but felt strained in the way coarse humor is injected into moments that would’ve been laughable enough on their own. Mostly wholesome, it definitely earns its PG rating for moments of slapstick violence, sexual innuendo, and just generally scary moments.

There are not many movies that have made me laugh out loud in a theater, but this was one of them! The whole audience resounded with laughter in several moments, and the chemistry between the main penguin characters, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Private (Christopher Knights), and Rico (Conrad Vernon) is just perfect! The penguins and their elite, covert spy capers steal the show in the earlier Madagascar movies, and the characters unquestionably showed themselves to be strong enough to hold up their own movie. Adding an almost Sherlock-ian, smugly brilliant character of Agent Classified (with the unmistakable voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) and a manic-yet-depressed octopus bent on taking over the penguin-world, Dave (voiced by first-time cartoon actor, the acclaimed John Malkovich) is pure icing on the cake. Being familiar with the actor’s prior work makes the movie and its clever quips much more enjoyable.

The movie begins explaining how Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico reject the “boring” nature of being “normal” penguins and set out to rescue an egg that has rolled away from the rest of the marching penguins. After much peril, they succeed and hatch the egg, which turns out to have baby Private inside. They then adopt Private as their own “brother/mascot/secretary” and become a family, spiraling into numerous exciting adventures across the globe!

There are many uplifting and positive moments. For instance, doing the right thing despite peer pressure is stressed in the storyline, as is not judging others by appearance. In addition, there are many heart-warming and redemptive moments with the main overarching moral being that merely seeking to take out one’s revenge never heals the pain in one’s heart and that pain must be overcome by love, loyalty, and sacrifice of self for others. Both Dave and Private experience rejection by others, but they react in opposite ways to that pain; Dave with seeking revenge over all, and Private seeking to dig himself out of the hole of self-pity with the power of love.

The main thing that I recommend that adults consider before taking a child to this movie would be whether the particular child can deal with the sheer excitement and continual chaos of the story. Some younger children might not be able to handle all the gigantic explosions, intense fighting, zapping laser guns, characters being captured, and just general spy-movie kinds of things. There are also ominous octopus minions, and the penguins are all turned into malformed zombie-like monsters for part of the movie. There are some sexual remarks and innuendo, such as a male penguin having an awkwardly long kiss with another male penguin, penguins slapping each other’s bottoms in a silly dance routine, a sight-gag involving coconut “balls,” a male penguin and female owl kissing, and a penguin losing feathers on his rear and looking nude. The penguins say “butt,” “heck,” “gosh,” and other tame things of that nature, along with a reoccurring joke about “breaking wind.”

One thing to consider is the fact that Rico constantly hides objects by swallowing them whole and then regurgitating them when needed. Smaller kids need to be taught that this isn’t how humans work, just in case they want to try that at home! Another recurring joke that adults will undoubtedly catch is that celebrity names such as Hugh Jackman, Drew Barrymore, Elijah Wood, and several others are carefully buried in the movie dialog. For example, Dave yells to an octopus, “Nicholas, cage them!” (Nicholas Cage) and later “Halle, bury them!” (Halle Berry).

All and all, the film upholds its tagline that “Super spy teams aren’t born… they’re hatched!” and spreads the message to believe in yourself and to be loyal to others, despite the odds. Packed with wry humor and extremely creative action sequences, I recommend this movie without reservation for older kids that can handle high-flying spy action and any adults that need a good laugh and an escape from the ordinary.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Mild

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—“The Penguins of Madagascar” is a fun, inspiring, and incredibly cute film for all ages. There are many forms of uniquely portrayed positive messages about friendship, teamwork, respect, humility, and even a line for loving enemies at the end. Even adults should choose this film over the action comedies that are more targeted at them, and they’ll enjoy it!

Unfortunately, there are two misuses of God’s name and an occasional crass joke—but nothing explicit. Still, in the end, you’ll walk away with a positive feeling from it. Contrary to what you might expect, those slapstick penguins certainly can carry on a well-made full film! Is it any good, worthwhile? Absolutely! I hope it remains as a classic family masterpiece!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
Gabriel Mohler, age 25 (USA)
Positive—Having seen many animation movies, including the first three Madagascars and some of the animated series with the penguins, I was looking forward to watching this movie, and, I must say, what a blast! The fast-paced action brings us all around the world. With great audio and visual comedy (guys can certainly be very silly!), many jokes will only resonate to adults.

Yes, it’s a simple story and contains plot holes, but, being a cartoon, it not only consciously takes shortcuts but makes fun of the clichés of action movies. As a whole, the movie shares great values about friendship and brotherhood. There is a great emphasis on not leaving anyone behind or on sacrifice for the ones you care most about, versus counting the pros and cons. You can also have a good gospel conversation about finding your place in the world. If not convinced by its fantastic action and humor, you should at least see it to witness Cumberbatch mispronouncing the word “penguin”!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Nicolas, age 28 (United Kingdom)
Neutral—As another big fan of animation, and the original “Madagascar,” I was expecting to disagree with Beth’s negative review (below), but she got it right. I gave it a neutral because my grandsons enjoyed it, but adults will not find the quality in art and story of other Dreamworks movies, like “How to Train Your Dragon.” There are some worthy highs, but the Penguin’s shtick can’t sustain a feature length.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2½
—Brian Schacht, age 68 (Canada)
Negative—Let me start by saying I watch A LOT of animated movies, so when I say what I am going to say, it comes from someone who has seen most of them. I didn’t expect that it was going to be like the main Madagascar, which I liked those, and I really like the characters of the penguins as side characters. They certainly can’t keep for a whole movie as the main characters. This has to be one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen. I am disappointed in myself I even wasted time sitting there, after I realized how stupid it was.

There was no real story line to carry the movie, it was just so stupid how they tied in this octopus that wanted revenge. Those penguins are funny enough just to have them doing things and making a story out of that, not the route they went with this evil plot of the octopus. And, of course, it is concerning about the homosexual agenda so many of these movies have to get children and people more accepting of this. From the penguins (that are all boys) holding a very long awkward kiss, dressing in women’s bikinis, to one time literally biting the butt of the other penguin and staying there for quite some time to them dancing smacking the butt of the other penguin. Just odd and evil, really, that they put these things in cartoons.

Overall, the movie totally stunk, trust me, don’t waste your time or God’s money. Big flop!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Beth, age 40 (USA)
NegativeI found this movie to be exactly the opposite of what I expected. I thought this was going to be a fun family movie that would not have sexual innuendo or questionable actions and images that were sexually suggestive. I did not enjoy the movie because of these.

For some reason, these male penguins were interested in slapping, biting, and sucking on each others rear ends and sticking wires into their backsides. One was interested in kissing another male penguin for an extended time. I could not miss the messages.

I regret spending the money and time to see this movie. I don’t think there is anything redeeming that makes this movie worth watching for either kids or adults. The movie is masquerading as a kid’s movie, but it is just a fast paced “humorous” but creepy collection of depraved messages that are aimed at young children.

I thought the cartoon penguins were cute in the past, but this movie totally changed my mind.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Lori, age 57 (USA)
Negative—I love a good family movie. Unfortunately, this one manages to be boring despite well-animated and virtually non-stop action sequences. All the funny parts are already in the trailer. The penguins just aren’t enough to carry a whole film. It also has a rather dumb and not well-developed plot, even for a kids” movie. The plot is as follows:

***SPOILER*** A bitter octopus bent on revenge kidnaps penguins from all over the world to use this invention to make them ugly. ***END SPOILER***

POSITIVE CONTENT: • At the beginning, when an unhatched egg rolls away and is going to be left behind, the penguins feel this somehow isn’t right even if it’s what happens a lot, so they go save it. The unborn are lives worth saving. • the message of revenge doesn’t make you happy, but love can change your life

NEGATIVE CONTENT: • the homosexual agenda (long kiss between male penguins as well as one bites the other’s butt for a long time, one slaps his friends rear throughout the movie, 3 male penguins raise a 4th). Granted, I don’t think a lot of kids will recognize it, but it’s almost more offensive to me here because it creeps dangerously into children’s movies with subtlety and under the guise of humor. • ***SPOILER*** the film almost made a good point about loving someone despite their physical appearance, but then in the bonus scene during the credits they reneged it.

Like I said, I’m not sure that kids will readily identify the objectionable content and even if you are ok with those objections, the movie is still busy, but boring.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Willow, age 23 (USA)
Negative—After reading the reviewer’s positive write up, I thought this would be a light, funny, movie similar to the previous Madagascar films. Instead I found the movie boring, the supporting characters unappealing, and would not go and see it again if it was free admission and they threw in all the popcorn I could eat. During the film, I heard only a few instances of someone chuckling, but no outright laughter, at all. The key words when describing this film is boring, boring and even more boring. ZZzzzzzz.

I also agree with pretty much everything the previous negative reviews had to say. We are to be good stewards of the finances God has blessed us with so please don’t waste those resources on this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Murray Elliott, age 67 (Canada)

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