This is the kind of movie that you’d expect the bean counters at Disney to readily fund given that the public adores the cute penguins. I did not have a lot of expectations from this film but the trailer looked interesting enough to make me sit through and bear what they came up with.
To some people the idea of an independent film for the Penguins from Madagascar might seem like a good idea. They’re cute, clever and uniquely awesome given their popularity with children and universal approval by adults. But once I saw the movie, I figured out why it doesn’t work out as well in practice.
The Penguins are condensed parodies of various action movie stereotypes that the typical movie going audience is used to. A parody by definition does not need any character development as you can simply tap into the viewer’s memory and let them run with it. This works very well in the original ‘Madagascar’ movie where the penguins are supporting characters to the story, while the main characters are completely original and brilliantly done. In contrast, any realistic efforts at character development in this film seem a bit off and tend to work against the film, just because the characters are cemented in the minds and a change is not welcome.
When you put the Penguins in their own movie, you’ll soon realize that you can stretch the parody only so much before it becomes repetitive and tiresome. In an attempt to remedy this problem, the writers even introduce a completely new set of characters called the ‘North Wind’ just to be able to extend the film to a full feature length. The ‘North Wind’ in this movie are analogous to the role that the Penguins play in the original ‘Madagascar’ film.
The writing is cleverly packed with jokes, references and puns similar to what is seen in the original ‘Madagascar’ film. This is pretty much Dreamworks’ forte and the movie ensures to not disappoint on that front. You’ll probably need multiple viewings to enjoy the abundant jokes and visuals in each and every scene.
The movie also acts as a reminder of why spin-offs fail. Choosing the right characters to spin-out is a vital decision that cannot to be taken lightly and on the basis of popular opinion.