While I was never a big fan of Dreamworks Animation's Madagascar franchise, there were two things I couldn't help but enjoy the hell out of: King Julian and his royal court; and the comedic relief provided by four penguins that hatched random, Black Ops-level plans of escape. Clearly the breakout stars of the star-studded animal series, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private were always bound for greater things. Two successful sequels and a hit TV show later, the boys finally have their own movie, and it's well worth the wait.
Penguins Of Madagascar tells the “untold story” of how our penguin protagonists got together, but to be fair that's only the first sequence in the film. After that, the film picks up at the end of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, which eventually entangles the four Penguins into a bout of intrigue involving Dave (John Malkovich) – an octopus with a particular grudge against all penguin kind, and the North Wind – an elite squad of specialists lead by Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is tasked with foiling Dave's evil plan. With both sides of the fight against them, the Penguins will have to take a stand and save the day.
Penguins Of Madagascar is not only a worthy successor to the Madagascar series, but it's also a fun stand alone that banks on the comedic talents of its cast. In particular, John Malkovich is a stand out as the villainous Dave, who has a penchant for puns involving the names of famous actors. Considering this is his first time in an animated film, he makes the transition to voice work rather well. As for the film itself, it's a breezy, fast paced adventure that brings a lot of laughter for parents and children alike. The humor runs the gamut from slightly bawdy humor only adults will understand to a lot of slapstick that the kids will have fun with. If you're a parent that's going out with the kids this weekend and needs a fresh film to bring the younglings to, this is another great option.
The only downside to Penguins Of Madagascar is that the story sometimes takes a backseat to the film's humor. There's a basic story about finding your place and fitting in with an organization, but it's given only enough attention to register as a presence. While the story isn't as watertight as some of Pixar or even Dreamworks' best efforts, the film does provide a wide enough swath of constantly funny moments, so it hardly even matters. Also, one minor note about whether or not you should see this film in 3D, it's advised that you don't. The effect really isn't that spectacular, and just barely pops out with most of the film's sight gags.
If you're looking for a fun time this weekend, but have babysitting duty or any other limitation that would narrow your options to more PG entertainment, Penguins Of Madagascar is well worth the ticket price.
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