So far, there have been 3 entries into the “Madagascar” animated movie series. They focus around an unlikely group of friends (a zebra, a lion, a hippo, and a giraffe) who are hanging out in the New York Zoo, and accidentally go on worldwide adventures.
Those movies were certainly big hits, but as with the minions in the Despicable Me series, the thing people responded to most strongly were a group of side characters. In this case, a group of military-minded penguins.
The Penguins did have their own animated series for a while, and finally, they have their own movie. The movie is directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith, who are the same directors from all the previous Madagascar movies, so their level of expertise is pretty high by now.
The story for this movie starts by briefly showing the origin of the team as they rescue Private (while still in egg form) as he rolls off a cliff in Antarctica. Skipper (the leader), Kowalski (the brains?), and Rico (demolitions), had already decided to break free of the other penguins “go with the flow” mentality and set out on their own adventures. The story then jumps to the end of the last Madagascar movie (just when you thought you had gotten Chris Rock’s Polka Dot Afro song out of your head), as the penguins are ready for their next adventure. Private is longing to prove that he is a valuable member of the team, and feeling like he is only valued for his cuteness. The four have a run-in with an octopus masquerading as an evil scientist, with an entire legion of octopi henchmen. His name is Dave, and he’s angry that he’s been shuffled from zoo to zoo, always being replaced by cuter penguins. He launches an evil plan to capture all the penguins from all the zoos, and zap them with a ray that will un-cute them.
Skipper and the gang set out to disrupt his plan, and while in a chase sequence in Venice, they encounter the North Wind – an elite team of crime fighting northern winter animals. After some initial not-getting-along, the two teams work together to solve the case, with Private finally proving his worth as a member of the team.
Something I really enjoyed was that the filmmakers stayed with the original voices for the four penguins, Tom McGrath (Skipper), Chris Miller (Kowalski), Christopher Knights (Private), and Conrad Vernon (Rico). When making animated movies, the tendency is to go with big name actors, which is useless, because there are several talented voice actors out there. The rest of the cast does have some big names in it.
- John Malkovich plays the evil octopus, Dave. And – he’s really perfect as an evil octopus.
- Benedict Cumberbatch voices the husky, Classified, who is the leader of the North Wind. He tries to maintain his dignity in the face of the Penguin nonsense.
- Ken Jeong plays Short Fuse, who seems to be a baby fur seal. He’s very fluffy and cute.
- Annet Mahendru plays Eva, a snow owl, who does a lot of flirting with Kowalsky.
- Peter Stormare plays Corporal – a large polar bear. Here’s a bit of trivia for you, polar bears and penguins never, ever encounter each other in the wild. Polar Bears are exclusively northern hemisphere animals, and penguins are exclusively southern hemisphere animals.
That’s about it, cast-wise. As animated movies go, I was really pleased. It's great for kids, as most of the humor is straightforward, but I have to say adults will enjoy it too! It was really funny, and I laughed almost constantly. I have always found the leads in the Madagascar movies a little annoying, and really spent most of the time waiting for the penguins to show up. It’s solidly funny from top to bottom, and the animation is great.
7 out of 10 – gained points for the penguins breaking into Fort Knox for snacks. Lost points for the un-cute-ing of the penguins giving them random effects, like antlers, or tentacles. Gained points for the rolling over the white stripes on the pavement…just hilarious. Also – gained big time bonus points for Dave’s random celebrity name-checking while giving orders. “Helen! Hunt them down! Kevin! Bake-on! We’ll need that cake!” There’s a ton of those, subtle jokes for the older crowd.
Bonus Video 1: The minion spin off movie for next summer – here’s hoping it’s as funny as this was!
Bonus Video 2: Cast Interviews