Penguins of Madagascar Review
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DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar trilogy featured an ensemble cast of quirky characters—from dancing zebras to lovable lemurs. But the daring penguins and their secret agent antics often stole the show. Now, in Penguins of Madagascar, the birds take on their first solo adventure—a film that suggests that some things are better in small doses.

Penguins of Madagascar follows the quartet of fearless flightless birds on a mission to save all of penguin-kind. After deciding that they don’t belong in the circus with the rest of the former Central Park Zoo animals, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private (voiced by Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, and Christopher Knights) set off on their next great adventure. But their quest for action and junk food is interrupted by Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), who’s developed a mysterious serum that could destroy the world.

Though they’re pretty sure that they can handle the case on their own, the penguins are forced to work with an elite organization known as the North Wind to stop Dr. Brine’s dastardly plan.

Penguins of Madagascar definitely has its share of wacky surprises and comic adventures. It has some clever moments, too—starting with the opening narration by eccentric director Werner Herzog. The voice cast is also top-notch, featuring everyone from Peter Stormare to Hollywood’s man of the moment, Benedict Cumberbatch. And it’s no big surprise that John Malkovich makes an amusingly odd villain.

Unfortunately, though, the film also has more than its share of fart jokes, running gags that overstay their welcome, and random, rambling storylines. The humor often falls flat—and while there’s still plenty of action, the adventure feels disjointed, with various characters and plotlines thrown in rather haphazardly. Perhaps it would have worked well as a shorter, simpler TV special—but, as a full-length feature, it seems to have required too much additional filler.

Meanwhile, the penguins and their spy-thriller antics are definitely entertaining as an action-packed part of a larger film. But when they’re placed in the spotlight, the characters’ bumbling overconfidence and general disregard for others tend to get tiring. The penguins are all pretty one-note—from Private’s adorable earnestness to Skipper’s almost unwavering arrogance. And though they still have some amusing moments, these four birds simply aren’t enough to carry an entire film.

Of course, fans of the Madagascar franchise will enjoy following along with these misguided heroes in their first full-length adventure. But it’s clear that the penguins still need a little bit of help from the rest of their friends from the Central Park Zoo to make a charming and fun-filled film.

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