Penguins of Madagascar movie review: it’s cheezey-dibble-icious

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Penguins of Madagascar green light

Gloriously bonkers. Like, Looney Tunes levels of cartoon madness. You will laugh your homo sapiens head off.
I’m “biast” (pro): mostly love the Madagascar movies, really love the penguins

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

The hilarious paramilitary penguins of the Madagascar flicks have their own movie, and it is gloriously bonkers. Like, Looney Tunes levels of cartoon madness. You will laugh your homo sapiens head off. Penguins of Madagascar is closest in tone to what I called the “animated anarchy” of the third film, Europe’s Most Wanted… about which, I said two years ago, it felt as if the “cool, smooth nonsense of the penguins’ outrageous schemes… was allowed to take over the entire film.” Now this has actually happened, and there was much rejoicing. The plot is entirely superfluous. All you need to know is that Skipper (the voice of Tom McGrath: Mr. Peabody & Sherman), Kowalski (the voice of Chris Miller: Monsters vs. Aliens), Private (the voice of Christopher Knights: Megamind), and Rico (the voice of Conrad Vernon: Puss in Boots) go up against an octopus supervillain (the voice of John Malkovich [Red 2], quite possibly the role he was born for) with the help of an actually competent team of Arctic-animal superspies who go by the supercool moniker of The North Wind and are led by the wolf Agent [Redacted] (the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch [The Imitation Game], who settles it: he can do no wrong). Along the way there will be delicious and forbidden golden snack food, “some music — something chasey,” Skyping with bad guys, a cuteness ray, and tons of hilarious wordplay and one-liners. If there is a red button, it will be pushed. If there is brainless conformity, it will be rebelled against. You will encounter Werner Herzog as the philosophical narrator of a nature documentary. You will witness the Dreamworks logo transformed into a collapsing glacier, because that happens. This may well be a guidebook for all penguins facing destruction of their natural environment. Get out there, my little flightless friends, and seek “adventure and glory like no penguins have ever seen before.”

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Fri, Dec 05, 2014 5:25pm

can’t wait — i love the penguins… no cartoons have made me as happy since animaniacs and pinky and the brain!

Rebecca Dalmas
Rebecca Dalmas
Fri, Dec 05, 2014 7:04pm

John Malkovich has always been fascinating to me, but not in a likable way, until now. Just saw an interview with him, with him speaking French quite well, recounting an unforgettable night he spent as Gerard Depardieu’s out-of-town guest. Hilarious. One more reason to see this movie!

Sun, Dec 07, 2014 1:44pm

You would probably like the Penguins series, available on DVD. Much of it also wonderfully silly, tho with a major dearth of female characters.

Sun, Dec 07, 2014 10:20pm

The awkwardness associated with buying a ticket for a kid film like this makes me wish for a nephew or niece of an appropriate age to disguise my way-too-oldness. Being a critic is good cover: “Just doing my job.”

Mon, Dec 08, 2014 8:01am

I always felt that the penguins were having way more interesting adventures than the main characters off-screen. Glad the spin-off is as much fun as the main series.

Tue, Dec 09, 2014 5:39pm

Does Cumberbatch actually have to say the word “penguins” in this film? Because he seems to have trouble doing that, apparently. :-)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Dec 10, 2014 8:18am

He does! And it comes out like “penwings.” :-)

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Aug 10, 2017 1:58am

every time he says it, i rewind a bit to hear it again.

Thu, Aug 10, 2017 1:35am

i am finally seeing this and i am ROLLING with laughter… i don’t know how i missed it all the way back in 2014… but i am so happy to see it now.