Flightless foursome amuse adults and kids alike

Penguins of Madagascar
English (U) ***
Directors: Eric Darnell, Simon J Smith
Cast: Voices of Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, Peter Stormare, Werner Herzog

The lovable penguins from the Madagascar franchise finally get their due in a spin-off in Penguins of Madagascar. Playing second fiddle as sidekicks to Alex, the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe in three films, but nevertheless considered stars big enough to warrant their own film, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private unite to save penguins and humans from a sinister octopus.

A decade back, Skipper (Mcgrath), Kowalski (Miller), Rico (Vernon) saved the egg holding Private (Knights) from seals and have been great pals ever since. While at Fort Knox to celebrate Private’s birthday, the foursome are abducted and flown to Venice to meet Dave (Malkovich), an octopus who disguises himself under the human alias Dr Octavius Brine. Dave has scores to settle, for the penguins hogged the limelight after they came to New York’s Central Park Zoo and Dave has been forgotten. Dave’s plan is to use a serum on all penguins so that they look ugly and will not be exhibited in zoos.

The penguins escape from Dave, and just as they are cornered, find themselves rescued by North Wind, a team comprising a wolf named Classified (Cumberbatch), Corporal the polar bear (Stormace), an angry seal Short Fuse (Jeong) and a snowy owl Eva (Mahendru). The rest is about the penguins joining forces with North Wind to combat Dave.

While the plot isn’t anything extraordinary, the penguins are seriously funny, as are Skipper’s puns when commanding his team such as “Drew, Barry, more power” and “Nicolas, cage them”. Not to be missed are the cute mockumentary by German director Werner Herzog in the opening scene, which is a parody from March of The Penguins, and the mid-air crisis as the penguins wake up on plane. The third big 3D animated penguin film may not be as thought-provoking as Happy Feet (2006) or even beat Surf’s Up (2007) when it comes to imaginative story-telling, but makes up for it with terrific animation.

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