For years, the comedy sidekicks in animated films were just that: funny diversions in movies that focused on other characters. But sensing an opportunity to wring even more money out of their franchises, the makers of series like Madagascar and Despicable Me are determined to give those sidekicks the spotlight.
First out of the gate is Penguins of Madagascar, granting four mischief-loving penguins from the Central Park Zoo the ability to unleash mayhem around the world. The very loose plot of the film finds the foursome at odds with Dave (John Malkovich), an octopus out for revenge after being shuttled from zoo to zoo when he can’t compete with penguins for people’s attention.
The film isn’t one big romp. Dave’s (John Malkovich) plot and its effects are legitimately terrifying, and even the avalanche of jokes can’t hide its scares.
His plot is to kidnap all penguins and use a poison serum to turn them into hideous monsters. The four penguins unwittingly team up with a group called North Wind, led by wolf Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), to try to thwart Dave’s evil plans.
What made the penguins such fun in the three previous Madagascar movies is their go-for-broke attitude, no matter what the situation. The expanded version does lose some of its effectiveness because their antics are no longer a break in the action, but rather the action itself.
That’s not to say that it isn’t fun; it’s just a tad repetitive. Directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith and their team of screenwriters do their best to keep things entertaining for both kids and adults. Younger viewers will love the goofiness the penguins constantly display, while parents will enjoy the semi-clever celebrity name-dropping via puns.
However, the film isn’t one big romp. Dave’s plot and its effects are legitimately terrifying, and even the avalanche of jokes can’t hide its scares. That may not be exactly what people were hoping for with a movie that’s ostensibly for kids, so parents should take heed before heading to the theater.
Still, Penguins of Madagascar has plenty of charm, which makes it feel a little more interesting than the cash grab that it really is. It has its fair share of fun moments, but don’t go in expecting much more than that.