Directors: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Chris Knights, Conrad Vernon
Watch Penguins of Madagascar online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
The somewhat overly-confident, outspoken and scene-stealing penguins of the Madagascar movies, have finally been given their very own film. Forget the TV series of the same name, this one starts at the very beginning, where the Skipper, Kowalski and Rico find young Private and buck the trend of a penguin’s life in Antarctica, to follow a life of exciting global travel.
Moving forward ten years, the circus life doesn’t quite cut it for these buddies, but a cheesy bag of crisps – inside a vending machine, inside Fort Knox – is their call to adventure. But as soon as they find the treasure, the fellas are kidnapped by Doctor Octavius Brine, aka Dave the Octopus (voiced by John Malkovich), who has been out for revenge for a number of miserable years.
Cue the North Wind organisation, comprising of Classified the wolf (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), a harp seal, a polar bear and snow owl, whose mission it is to protect the animals of the world who cannot protect themselves.
Cumberbatch adds much gravitas to events – and hilarity too (he cannot say the word “penguin”, it’s more “pengwing”) – which shows just how versatile an actor he can be. After Star Trek and The Hobbit, it makes a pleasant change for Benedict to play the good guy, as opposed to the baddie, which Malkovich plays with a huge smack of empathy.
From the opening scene in Antarctica’s penguin colonies, with Werner Herzog voicing his own documentary narration, to the Bond-style Venice canal chase, it’s clear Penguins is as much for adults as for kids. If you can ignore the tenuous celebrity puns, that is, which are sprinkled a little too liberally. As a spin-off, it does have franchise appeal, but this first entry doesn’t feel strong enough – even at 90 minutes, it’s a smidgen too long – so let’s hope this is a one off. Unless, of course, Cumberbatch can be persuaded to join the pengwings again.
Penguins of Madagascar is available on Sky Movies – and, for non-Sky customers, on NOW TV, as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription.
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