All original written content is (c) 2014 Mike Pascale. Visual content is (c) its respective owners. Bru-Hed is a trademark of All Ages Media and Mike Pascale.
NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: Those wisecracking, silly and lovable penguins from MADAGASCAR prove they can support a feature film of their own!
From their humble origins in Antarctica, they travel around the world to combat an evil Octopus named Dave who’s hell-bent on destroying all penguin cuteness, with help (and interference) from a secret animal group called The North Wind.
Screenplay by John Aboud and Michael Colto; story by John Aboud, Michael Colton, Alan J. Schoolcraft, Brent Simons and Brandon Sawyer. Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith.
- As with the MADAGASCAR films, voice casting is generally superb. The Penguins: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon and Chirstoper Knights are joined by John Malkovich’s perfect badguy voice, plus SHERLOCK himself, Benedict Cumberbatch, as the “Classified” leader of the North Wind group.
- Animation is top-notch. From the water to the penguins’ fur to the slimy skin of the octopi (octopusses?), everything looks good. It’s really getting hard to tell one studio from another these days on this kind of animation, other than maybe Disney/Pixar. Others like BOOK OF LIFE and PARANORMAN have to stand out with technique and character construction.
- Nice to find out the origin of the team, which is both amusing as well as heart-warming. (The baby Private is just too darn cute!) [MIKE: Note the voice of real documentary director Werner Herzog as the voice of the documentary guy in the film.]
- If you’re a fan of English-accented Private, he gets a nice spotlight here.
- Some genuinely funny moments, both for adults and kids. Good slapstick as well as more clever stuff. Same with the dialog. There are a lot of places where the Skipper screws up names of people and places. Listen quickly or you’ll miss some of the jokes. (Dave the villain orders one of his octopi, “Nicholas, cage them!” Later on, he gives similar “celebrity” directions rapid-fire and they’re funny if you can catch them all.)
- The communication issues in the North Wind ship were especially funny/true to life (seen in the trailer).
- Good lessons about admitting when you’re wrong as well as how anyone can be a “meaningful and valuable member” of a team.
- Kudos for a couple scenes going farther than expected (rather than “nick of time,” a couple things actually happen, which I didn’t expect). Ending is more upbeat for the bad guy for a change.
- Special appearance at the end of two MADAGASCAR characters. (A few also show up in the flashbacks, of course.)
- Plot is easy to follow for little ones. It’s rated PG but nothing too scary other than one or two “peril” scenes.
- While it’s easy to tell the four Penguins apart, when they’re shown among hundreds of others, not so much. There were a couple scenes where I honestly couldn’t tell if they were meant to be the main guys or just “general” penguins.
- No background on the North Wind, where they come from or how they’re set up. It would have been interesting to have some backstory.
- Since Skipper does most of the talking (and Rico just makes noises), not a lot of dialog interplay between the characters. Might have been nice to have more of their development rather than just a quick origin.
- Mostly a bunch of lighter laughs rather than “big bits” you’ll remember as classic (as opposed to say, the intro of Baymax in BIG HERO 6.)
- Did not see this in 3D so I can’t vouch for the effects. But it was perfectly enjoyable without it and I don’t see it adding anything worthwhile.
- Though there is an extra bit right after the credits start, there’s nothing else. No outtakes or gags during the credits, and no button at the end. (Boooo!)
If you have little kids and need to get ‘em out of the house for a couple hours, take them to the theater. Otherwise you can wait till this is on video/streaming. But definitely see it, especially if you liked these guys from the MADAGASCAR films and this kind of animation in general. Keep your expectations in check and just have fun. I definitely like these Penguins more than the hockey team!
P.S.: Holy crap, the holidays are just around the corner! You need a nice piece of ORIGINAL ART for the perfect gift–even if it’s for you. Just ask Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, wildlife around the world, cute animals, ugly animals and those from the Northern or Southern hemispheres. No animals were harmed in the making of this review, other than the cow and pig who made up Bru-Hed’s bacon-burger he ate while writing this.