Film

The Penguins of Madagascar are cute, but that’s about it

(Review) If I’m kind of confused, what about the kids?

Children and parents have been making the Madagascar franchise one of the most popular go-together events through four movies now, since DreamWorks delivered to the world the animated antics of Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo in 2005.

And penguins are considered so cute and cuddly.

So we’re told repeatedly as the die is cast for the plot of The Penguins of Madagascar, as we meet Skipper, Kowalski and Rico on the top of an iceberg, where they separate from the sheep-like ways of their brethren to investigate a wayward rolling egg. Private is hatched, and they vow to be a family, only to meet up with dastardly Dave, who vows to make up for their evil ways back in the Central Park Zoo and subsequent zoos of the world, where the cuteness of penguins caused his eight-legged octopus-ness to be considered ugly and unwanted.

Yes, Dave — that’s Dr. Octavious Brine, to be formal — has developed an inferiority complex and quite a caper for revenge.

This could indeed be box office smash No. 4 in the line. Said penguins are familiar to the public, having been introduced with smaller parts in previous Madagascar hits. Two big names have voices in the script written by John Aboud and directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith, with Benedict Cumberbatch taking on North Force agent Classified and John Malkovich snarling menacingly as Dave. And yes, they do get the punniest lines. For example, a chef named Kevin is told to keep bakin’.

But as I sat with my dear wife Karen at a late Sunday afternoon matinee at the Regal chain in Shoppingtown in a smaller theater that held, oh, 20 kids and a dozen parents, I wondered if the little ones around me could really follow along with the flying ships and marching octopi and transforming rays and latent anger and retribution and … well, things moved along so briskly in the 1-hour, 32-minute movie that I wasn’t sure that I picked up on everything. But the kids were giggling when they were supposed to be. I laughed, too, but just a couple times. And then toward the end, I heard one parent snoring loudly down front.

Now that’s a split opinion if ever there was one.

Animated penguins, fetching.

Puns, frequent.

Plot, fast.

Kids, festive.

One parent, far, far away.

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Mark BialczakMark Bialczak is a veteran journalist who has lived in the Syracuse area since 1983. In early 2013, he was set free to write about whatever he wants. Click here to read Mark’s BLOG.

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