You know that character that exists in the realm of any movie merely to make you laugh from time to time. They have minimal sub-plots, the entirety of the film itself never hinges on their existence because, well, they aren’t main characters, and if the screenwriters decided last minute to take them out of the film entirely we still wouldn’t lose to important aspects of the film. In other words, they don’t matter, but we’re so happy they’re around. Think those Minion creatures from ‘Despicable Me’ or the Penguins from ‘Madagascar’ or that funny looking prehistoric squirrel from ‘Ice Age’. These are troublemaking little beasts who have found a place in our hearts, but they make no difference to the overall progression of the films they embody. Sure, their absence would deaden the enjoyment, but the film could get on without them.
I mention all of this because so often we find ourselves celebrating these little creatures, loving them and even championing them for their own films. GIVE THEM THEIR OWN MOVIE! THEY’RE HILARIOUS! But what we never take into consideration is that, for the most part, these creatures are supporting players for a reason; they have no real depth and can’t carry an entire plot, and so when some of these characters have been given their moments to shine, whether with their very own movie or with a short lived television series, it fizzled.
We hated it.
So, that brings me to ‘Penguins of Madagascar’. Yes, I loved those sarcastic, trouble making loads of adorableness and they were, by a pretty large margin, my favorite thing about those ‘Madagascar’ movies, but those movies had grown tiresome and so the idea of them attaining their own film kind of scared me. I really didn’t want this to be awful, and I was afraid that, while sprinkled bits of their dry sarcasm gave their movies bite, a hole hour and a half of it was going to grate my nerves.
I said this the minute I walked out of the theater, and I still stand by it; ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is the funniest movie not starring Rose Byrne that I saw in all of 2014. For real. It may not be the smartest, the most clever, the most memorable (The LEGO Movie, as a whole, has that edge), but for pure laughs, ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is boss.
I never stopped laughing.
The film opens with a rather hilarious ‘three men and a baby’ moment and then quickly moves us into a fast paced story revolving around our favorite little penguins, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and their adopted brother Private. There are internal tensions with regards to poor Private wanting to be appreciated as more than just their cute cuddly ‘baby’, but the real story centers on a crazy octopus seeking revenge on the penguins to stole all the attention away from him when they were brought to his zoo. So, this octopus is obviously a crazy mad genius who comes up with a way to turn all penguins into hideous monsters so that the general public will hate them. The penguins find (unwanted) help by a group called The North Wind, a Special Forces unit of polar animals lead by a stubborn Wolf. At the end of the day though, it is Private who needs to prove his worth, once and for all.
The bottom line is that this is really what a family cartoon is all about. It’s hilarious, with every joke landing in all the right ways. The animation is sharp, the voice acting is great and the crisp dialog is spot on. My kids laughed and I laughed, from start to finish.
An A! A glorious A! It's such a shame that this won't stand a chance at netting an Oscar nomination, especially when it was so much better than that mediocre 'Dragon' sequel!