Reviewed by: Jessica D. Lovett
|Better than Average
|Kids Family Teens Adults
|Animation Family Kids IMAX 3D
|1 hr. 32 min.
|Year of Release:
November 26, 2014 (wide—3,600+ theaters)
DVD: March 17, 2015
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
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
spies in the Bible
animals in the Bible
Benedict Cumberbatch … Classified (voice)
Ken Jeong … Short Fuse (voice)
John Malkovich … Dave (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)
Simon J. Smith
Pacific Data Images
|20th Century Studios, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Studios, a division of The Walt Disney Company
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.