Penguins of Madagascar
Christian Movie Review
It’s not surprising that the penguins from the Madagascar movies — characters who frequently stole the show and became audience favorites — are getting their own Hollywood big screen spotlight. They deserve it. Their mad antics are often hilarious.
In this film, the penguins compete with an elite organization of do-gooders, the North Wind, to take down an evil villain and save the world. Not the most original plot line, to say the least, but these penguins don’t need a lot to work with to do their zany thing.
Notably, John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch lend their talents to the voice acting.
Kids will find this film entertaining, of course. But will adults like it too? It’s at 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it’s questionable. And are there any parental guidance issues to know before bringing your young ones to see it?
Let’s take a look.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: None, of course. But this category gets downgraded to “Is there anything I wouldn’t want my kid to see” category for movies like this. This could vary greatly, depending on the parent, so I will include anything that comes remotely close: a penguin and an owl share a big smooch, sort of a make-out session but they’re covering their faces. It’s more funny than anything else because it grosses out the other penguins. The penguins slap each other’s bottoms for comedic effect (again, not even sure that would fit in this category, but I’m erring on the safe side). A penguin jokes that there was “no mating” involved.
Violence/Gore: Slapstick cartoon violence, though in some scenes we see leopard seals, who are animated in a frightening way for little children, and they swallow animals whole. Nothing gory. Just animals eating other animals. A penguin gone mad swallows a cat whole. A small innocent cricket is zapped by a laser and turned into a gross looking monster.
Language: None. Some grade school kiddie “language” — i.e. prevalent use of the word “butt.”
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: None.
Frightening/Intense Content: As mentioned above, the leopard seals are animated in a way that would be frightening to very young children. My daughter is a young toddler (almost 3-years-old), and I wouldn’t take her to see this movie because the leopard seals would scare her, as would the octopus villain and his octopus minions in a few scenes early on (though the villain also becomes a silly character, sort of a comic relief at times, as is common in all of these Madagascar movies). So some of the animation would frighten very young children, perhaps.
(Review continues below)
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Entertainment Value and Film Craft
The animation is fantastic, of course. However, the plot is predictable and a bit boring at times (boring for adults, not for kids). It is a funny film though. The grownups in the theater (including myself) laughed out loudly — i.e. uncontrollable belly laugh — probably three or four times, and there were countless moments that made us grownups in the theater chuckle and/or smile. In other words, if your kids are dragging you to see this movie, don’t worry you will get a fair amount of laughs out of it too. I especially enjoyed John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch in their voice acting roles. Malkovich had some funny puns using the names of celebrities.
Also, stick around for the credits. In the middle of the credits there is a fun bonus scene. I won’t spoil too much of it, but I will say that it involves other beloved characters from the first three Madagascar movies.
Worldview and Conclusion
You wouldn’t expect anything too deep from a silly movie like this one, and Penguins certainly doesn’t aim for the animated profundity of, say, Toy Story 3.
But it does, however, have a wonderful message that I found very refreshing: appearances don’t matter; it’s what you do that counts. It’s perhaps a little cliched — i.e. don’t judge a book by its cover — but just because it’s been repeated many times doesn’t make it any less true or profound.
And there’s something about the way that Penguins goes about it that made it more meaningful. It emphasized the importance of character, selflessness, and courage — especially character — as the quality that defines success in a person (or penguin).
This message is very much needed. And it’s very Victorian, in a way. In the 1800s, popular culture in America (and England) believed that the inner character is what mattered the most and what defined a person’s success. In the early 1900s, as early as the WWI years, a massive shift took place in Western popular culture. It became more about appearance, about personality, about charisma, about using the skills and magnetism of extroversion to create successful relationships, networks, and public image. It was about building a reputation using appearances, not character.
The penguins of Madagascar give that idea of success a big fin slap in the face, and I love those cute and cuddly penguins because of that.
I wouldn’t take very young ones to see it because of some of its intense animation, but the film’s fantastic message and its non-stop hilarity and clever humor make it a worthy theatrical outing for parents and kids alike.
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