Look Benedict you can say Pen-Gwins or even the more colloquial Pin-Gwens, but it’s just not pronounced Pen-wings! Oh who am I kidding with that voice you can pronounce it however you like.
“The Penguins of Madagascar” is a direct spin off from the Madagascar film universe, centering this time on the four monochromatic flightless birds that were primarily comedy sidekicks in the originals. The movie takes their penchant for mischief and espionage and spins it into a complete tale of adventure, intrigue, and a crazy octopus named Dave. Now it’s no secret that the Penguins were some of the best parts of the Madagascar films and shorts, but can they carry their own feature length film? Is almost an acceptable answer?
I mean seriously they give it a really good shot. These characters are truly funny and the movie manages to identify and stick to what works best for them. Mad cap, slap stick, action and hilarious running gags and one liners. These are the tools of the trade for comic relief and this movie throws those pitches right down the middle. Whether it be mistaking the name of the villain, sneaking celebrity names into the dialog, or just barreling through chase scene after chase scene, this movie knows why we love these penguins and takes every opportunity to give it to us. And yet, sidekicks are sidekicks for a reason.
They are best used off to the side. Once the focus shifts to them the repetitive nature of their schticks can become a bit nauseating over time. It’s like a Seinfeld spinoff focused on Kramer. You think it’d be hilarious, but I’m guessing it’d get tiresome quickly. It’s an issue we may see again with The Minions movie due out soon, and I’m not sure how to avoid it. It gives the movie a more immature feel, and can steal substance even when the story might be solid. Which is a shame because I think there could be some great themes here about belonging and purpose, but the movie never gives you time to feel it. It’s almost like the movie needs some dramatic relief as opposed to the usual need for comic relief. And maybe that was the point of adding the new more by the book team of characters, to temper the comedy a bit, but it doesn’t quite offset it enough to make it feel like anything more than a Saturday morning cartoon meant just for the kiddos. Again, not that that’s an awful thing, the movie pulls it off quite nicely, but you just feel like it could have been more.
At the end of the day, Penguins of Madagascar is mile a minute comedy with a great sense of humor and some eye catching action. If you loved them in the original movies you’ll likely enjoy seeing more of them here. If only they had given us a little more space from the humor to digest the meat hiding underneath I might have been able to regurgitate more than a B.