This initially questionable spin-off from the Madagascar franchise has certainly silenced any naysayers, as that playful nature and commitment to frivolity that these characters injected into the Madagascar films, works as the tone for this exuberant comedy. We open to Werner Herzog’s narration, playing a documentarian focusing in on penguin life. It’s there we meet Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon) as babies, where they become separated from their colony, only to discover an egg, and to welcome Private (Christopher Knights) out of it when it hatches.
We then fast forward to a number of years down the line (after the events that took place in Madagascar 3) to find our four flightless protagonists break into Fort Knox to steal cheesy crisps for Private’s birthday, and yet find themselves trapped by the nefarious villain Dave the Octopus (John Malkovich) who seeks revenge on all penguins across the world for stealing his limelight at the zoo. However with covert organisation North Wind – led by ‘classified’ (Benedict Cumberbatch), on hand, they set out to defeat this irrepressible antagonist once and for all.
With Darnell and Smith’s unrelenting, scattergun approach to jokes, here lies a film that is simply impossible not to enjoy. The filmmakers are careful not to ever deviate away from this playful nature either, as a picture that is simply all over the place, in the most endearing way imaginable. However, what comes with such territory, is a total disregard for narrative structure or any sense of emotional depth. Now while this is never truly vied for, Penguins of Madagascar still feels as though its lacking any sense of linearity, and with so little gravitas, the audience are unable to get fully invested in the characters, with a palpable disconnect in that regard.
However it’s unlikely the young kids (or big adults) in the audience are necessarily that fussed about the lack of emotion and profundity, as a picture that serves one purpose; to entertain. Given how triumphant it is in achieving that, it gives hopes to the forthcoming Minions movie – another spin-off from a successful animated franchise. In this case we could even have a spin-off of a spin-off, as Cumberbatch’s ‘classified’ is deserving of a movie himself, if only just to hear the actor attempt to say ‘penguin’. Because he can’t, and it’s bloomin’ hilarious.