Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

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Fun and genuinely a madcap adventure tour de force featuring the much loved penguins from the DreamWorks ‘Madagascar’ films, it may venture into being too odd at times and the silly antics of the four black and white birds could grow into a joke too far for those in the audience that aren’t children.

Jumping into Antarctica and back to the youthful days of Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private, we see how the thrill seeking flightless favourites came together and then we’re back in the big top picking up from ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’. Their camaraderie may be threatened when a forgotten octopus called Dave (John Malkovich) begins his penguin-napping scheme to rid zoos the world over of the cute and cuddly attractions. It’s down to the Fab 4 (not the Beatles) and the North Wind led by Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) to try and stop Dave before the team is broken apart.

Firstly, I must say that the animation is as bright and colourful as ever, it fits into the same world as Madagascar and details of the animals, snow in the first segment and batty chases in Venice are prime examples of how DreamWorks and this animation team can make a film come bursting into crazy life. This alongside the music by Lorne Balfe works well in building the spy atmosphere conjoined with the characteristics of the penguins.

I honestly have to comment that the strongest part of this entire movie, aside from the undeniable heart-warming cuteness of the ending moral is Dave and his well placed celebrity puns. They start trickling in slowly from a Nic Cage reference to being shuttled out thick and fast in hilarious fashion taking in Drew Barrymore and Kevin Bacon to name but a few. It’s a neat audio gag that serves as a big laugh for the older member watching and I guess the celeb orientated kids who may latch on after a while.

Here’s a film, though ever filled with speedy sequences and madness, it’s course runs into predictable grounds, you know how the North Wind effect will pan out and the ending however oddball and unexpected in visual culminates in the obvious sweet story wrapping up, though some antlers do their best to make it a differing case of all back to normal. The spy case story fits the four perfectly but the villain is left with a boring back story and a stale revenge plot, the finale is just a tad too insane and lots of things are too unbelievable, yes, even for a kids film.

I’m not going to lie, I thought taking one of the funnier things from the main series and planting them in their own headlined spin-off would be risky and might not pay off, but I can say I’m wrong on that front. They hold their own and show why everyone, or at least nearly everyone loves their capers. A lot of the silly seen through cheesy dibbles nibbles, Shanghai confusion and sky-falling plans works, it’s just now and then it seems to push too far making it feel very manic, like a sugar rushed plot with no exit strategy.

The vocal casting is as deliciously brilliant as always, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon, Chris Miller and Christopher Knights doing what they best with their stupid yet deadly serious deliveries. Having the adults voice the teeny baby penguins is a stroke of zany genius making it all the more surreal yet somehow acceptable. Benedict Cumberbatch has fun as the growling cool dude wolf, showing a sliver of threat in terms of taking the leader crown from McGrath’s Skipper, though you’ll end up leaving just laughing at how he honestly can’t say the word penguins.

The whole octopus story with him strangely morphing into a human is a weak note, the rest of the North Wind don’t have much to do, some jokes don’t hit as well because they’re seen in full in the trailer and it’s all too silly leaving the story lacking but there’s no pain in this joyful cinematic excursion.

A whistle-stop joy ride with visual and audible gags a plenty to serve mostly to kids but lightly to adults too. Mad and entertaining if not as thrilling or smart as it could have been.

5.5/10

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