I've never been overly fond of the Madagascar series, although I did quite enjoy the third instalment. Along every step of the way, however, the penguins have given me conflicted feelings. They seem to be pretty almost shoehorned in, a more polished version of Ice Age's Scrat that distract from the main plot with over the top special agent themed tomfoolery. I'm not sure why, but I didn't quite get the appeal, and they seemed to me to be more of a novelty than anything else. So finding out that there was going to be an entire movie about them, I was a little skeptical. I know they've already had their own TV show, but I really haven't paid attention to that.
Penguins Of Madagascar starts as an origin story, showing our heroes Skipper, Rico and Kowlaksi rescuing an egg containing a baby Private when they were mere chicks. They already have their excellent planning and acrobatic skills, so don't expect any training montages. Once the penguins are all together, we jump immediately to right after the events of Madagascar 3, where the team celebrate Private's tenth birthday, but also stumble into a nefarious plot spearheaded by the evil Dr. Octavius. With another crack team of agents also on his tail, can the penguins save the day?
Well, the plot leaves quite a lot to be desired. It's a generic secret agent/revenge story that never feels very fleshed out. Good enough for a kid's movie, but nothing special. Thankfully, that isn't the major attraction. Wherever the penguins have been involved, there have always been some high octane, acrobatic mad cap plans to carry out, and this movie turns that dial up to 11. For every lull in the story, there's a wonderfully choreographed action sequence that is just plain entertaining to watch. Chase scenes, infiltrations, there's always some action going on, and the penguins always lend their unique style to the proceedings.
There are also a good few laughs to be had throughout. There's a fair amount of visual humour, but there are a few golden one liners scattered around that definitely had me chuckling. It's certainly not a consistently hilarious movie, but there was certainly enough to keep me entertained. There's also a pretty good cast behind the animals. The penguins all have their voice actors returning, but there are also some good appearances by John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, and even a small turn by Werner Herzog. Sure, there are no Oscar worthy performances here, but every character has a pretty good voice behind them.
Penguins Of Madagascar is better than I was expecting. It's certainly not the best animated movie I've seen this year, but I definitely enjoyed myself. It's an action packed family offering that looks great, and while it may be a little thin on the ground plot-wise, it's a nice piece of entertainment for a few hours on a winter's day.
My rating: 4/5