Penguins of Madagascar (2014) - MOVIE REVIEW

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Movie Review

Back in the days when Skipper, Kowalski and Rico were just a trio of baby penguin bros marching along with the rest of their Antarctic colony, things were simpler. Just sun, snow and cute marching penguins. Simple, see?

Too simple, if you had asked Skipper. 

He didn't mind the cute part. After all, that's a penguin's bread and butter. But he was itching to break from the huddle and find some larger purpose to life, something more exciting to waddle through than mile after mile of irritating ice.

So when a stray egg just happened to roll down the hill past the guys one cold winter's day (and aren't they all?), it was a perfect excuse to take wing (which in this case means sliding on their bellies) and give chase. Of course that led to falling off a cliff, thumping down on the deck of a deserted ship, running from bird-eating leopard seals, barely avoiding a huge explosion and being set adrift on a small chunk of floating ice. 

But … it was better than mushing through all that boring snow. And along the way an egg was saved, too—a soon-to-be hatchling they named Private. Protecting that cute little fella gave this crew plenty of purpose.

Jump ahead 10 years and the penguins just keep finding more purpose. They've used their cuteness to entertain humans around the globe and finally discovered what they were meant to be: heroes. Yup, they will be super-agents! World travelers! Penguins of intrigue! And eaters of Cheesy Dibbles! (Especially that last one.) And it's a good thing they've finally fumbled upon this true meaning of life. For there's a grave danger afoot, that is, aflipper.

A vacuously vengeful and somewhat slimy baddie by the name of Dr. Octavius Brine has come up with a scheme to threaten penguins everywhere. No, no, he's not going to kill them. He plans to corral the world's penguin populace and steal away … their cuteness. Now that's nefarious!

Positive Elements

Skipper and his crew may often be caught up in their own ridiculous and slapstick pursuits, but they definitely care about one another. Skipper tells a newly hatched Private, "You've got us, and we've got each other. And if that ain't a family, I don't know what is." Later, when Private is grabbed by Dr. Brine, his mates move ice and earth to get him back. Private is also willing to put his life on the line if it means a chance to help all the others swept up in the evil doc's plot.

When that selfless effort results in Private being turned ugly (taking onto himself the others' deformities), Skipper assures his little pal, "If there's anything we've learned from this adventure, it's that looks don't count! It's what you do that matters. And look what you did!"

There's also another group of animals that takes action to help others. Clever critters in a high-tech spy team called the North Wind use every tool at their disposal to help those who Dr. Brine has captured. And even though the penguins tend to bumble around and cause even more havoc for this team to deal with, they eventually all become friends.

Spiritual Content

In a moment of stress, Skipper cries out, "Sweet chariot of the gods!"

Sexual Content

An excited Private joyfully moves to kiss all his brothers—and Rico grabs him and holds him for an overly long smooch on the lips (I mean beak). "Mess with the bull and you're gonna get the horns," Skipper tells the surprised young bird. Later, Private is dressed up in a bikini top and tail to blend in with a group of "mermaid" girl penguins. 

Just before an explosion, Skipper cries out, "Grab your coconuts and hold them tight!" It appears that he and his compatriots grab their crotches—but in truth they're actually picking up coconut shells. Two of their number then put the shells over their ears, while the third holds the shells up as if to make a coconut bikini. After crashing through an airliner's overhead bin, Skipper crawls out with a woman's bra on his head.

Rico slaps other birds' butts, and he wiggles his own to draw the attention of some seals. While stranded at sea, Riko attempts to eat another penguin's backside. 

Dr. Brine refers to Skipper and the others, saying, "I see you've met my old zoo mates." Skipper quickly corrects him with, "We were never 'mates.' There was nomating." Kowalski talks about his attraction to Eva, a female owl on the North Wind team, repeating his desire to kiss her. By movie's end they share a kiss behind her spread wing.

Violent Content

A deserted tanker ship blows up. And several of the North Wind helicopter-like vehicles explode. The penguins fall off a high cliff (but are saved by deep snow). Dr. Brine is hit by a truck. "Evil" octopuses chase our heroes, smashing and demolishing everything around them. Skipper hits an octopus foe (the creature disguised as the human Dr. Brine) in the crotch as they battle. A monster-fied Skipper gobbles up a live cat (then spits it back out). A leopard seal snatches up a sea gull and swallows it whole.

Crude or Profane Language

"Heck" and "crikey" pop up four or five times each. "Oh my gosh" and "gee" two or three.

Drug and Alcohol Content

North Wind's leader, Classified, shoots the penguins with tranquilizer darts. 

Other Negative Elements

Private sprouts a "butt hand." His tail feathers are zapped off by a ray gun, exposing his bare pink backside. Other mild toilet humor jokes and sight gags are scattered throughout the script. Two examples: The penguins empty the contents of a portable toilet (that Rico had recently used) on Classified. Skipper calls Classified a "flea-bitten toilet-drinker!" 

The penguins break into a government facility.


Well, here it is. The scene-broadsiding penguins from the Madagascar films finally get their own "origin story" movie. Sorta. It's really much more of a rollicking "superspy-guy" flick that's just as zany and frenetically screwball as you might have imagined it would be.

Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and young Private frantically flap their wingless way from Venice to Shanghai to New York in pursuit of Penguin Enemy No. 1. One-liners zig, sight gags zag, and all manner of silly schlock is thrown at the cinematic wall to see how many giggles will get you to groan. 

While moving at the speed of a greased-up goose (sorry, penguins), the quick-paced-and-shallow tale doesn't really give kids much to think or care about. But the story's final statement that looks aren't nearly as important as actions is certainly a tasty treat well worth munching on in the age of Kim Kardashian.

So it's a tad sad that there's also an abundance of less flavorful guffaws and goofiness in this particular bag of Cheesy Dibbles. It's the kind of cross-dressing, bum-slapping, unwelcome lip-locking nonsense between animated male animals that in the days of Bugs Bunny didn't raise too many eyebrows. But today, when filmmakers so often swing toward including their own personal political agendas and/or sexual leanings in the midst of kid-fare fun, well, you kinda suspect they're trying to wink at more than just wabbit hunting.

And this band of penguin brothers certainly does some winking.

Suth Inthuvarman