Plot: What’s it about?
Building a franchise isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be. I think all it takes is one really good movie and as they said in Scream – “it’s all about the sequel, baby!” This was the case with Madagascar, released in 2005 to generally favorable reviews and, of course, a robust box office. Three years later we got Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa and in 2012 we got Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. While I wasn’t that much of a fan of the second and third installment, I was actually looking forward to this one. Why? I love those penguins, man! Seriously, I don’t know who Tom McGrath is, but I love what he does with the character of Skipper – his smooth voice is one of the key reasons I liked some of these movies. And, let’s face it, the movies are very clever. I’ve always said that the key to some of these animated films is that they have equal appeal to both children and the parents (who are most likely sucked into watching the same movie over and over). Consider this a spin-off of the Madagascar films if you will, so let’s see if these penguins have the legs (pun fully intended) to make it on their own.
The story begins as we see how the quartet met. A documentary film crew, led by its director (voiced by Werner Herzog) shows us how Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath), Kowalski (voiced by Chris Miller), Rico (voiced by Conrad Vernon) and Private (voiced by Christopher Knights) were separated from the others. Flash forward and we learn that Dave (voiced by John Malkovich), a has been attraction at zoos around the world, is now out for revenge. Why? He’s jealous of the penguins notoriety and has decided to turn every last one of them into a horrible monster so that he can once again be back in the spotlight. The penguins, now aided by the North Star group led by “Classified” (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) set out to stop Dave and his evil-doing ways. But nothing’s ever easy, is it?
Ok, I wasn’t exactly giddy with excitement when I put the disc in, but I do remember enjoying the penguins from the various Madagascar movies, so I figured this would either be overkill or they’d get it right. In my eyes – they got it right. I laughed out loud and even had to pause the film to catch my breath. And this is coming from a guy who’s over 40 years old (then again, I’ve been told I’m very young at heart)! There’s no one thing that really makes this work, it’s the combination of the voice actors, things in the film and the interaction between anything and everything that really had me going. I think if the Marx Brothers were alive today, they might make a film like this. There are clearly some very creative folks behind these films and, as much as I hate to admit it, I’ll probably watch this one a couple times a year. Recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
I’m of the mindset, now, that any computer-animated film that’s new to the Blu-ray format will not look anything less than perfect. Ever. That’s not to say that I don’t try and scrutinize the picture, but in all but the rarest of cases I’m left with nothing to complain about. And with Penguins of Madagascar it’s really no different. The 1.78:1 AVC HD image is bursting with color from beginning to end. Dave the octopus’ bright purple “skin” leaps off the screen, the little bits of hair (yes, penguins have hair) on the main characters is visible and pretty much everything in between looks amazing. There’s really nothing else to say here, the black levels and contrast are solid, colors are vibrant and it delivers exactly as I thought it would. A fantastic effort.
Audio: How’s it sound?
It’s hard to top the way this movie looks and it packs a literal punch with the included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. One thing I remember from the original Madagascar was the voice of Skipper. I could have sworn it was Danny DeVito, but no – it’s Tom McGrath. Whatever the case, I loved the vocals in this movie and it’s part of what really makes the film work. The cast is littered with notable actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Peter Stomare and even Werner Herzog whose soft German accent starts the film off. Surrounds offer an exuberant amount of support here as the action gets going. None of your speakers will get the day off with this one – it’s a lively and fun track.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Fox has given us a lot here, but it’s more for entertainment value than substance. Then again, I doubt many of the target audience will want to listen to a commentary track.
- The World of Dreamworks Animation – A still screen with seven films to choose from. Each has at least one supplement in case you don’t already own the individual titles.
- Shrek – “I’m a Believer” Music Video
Madagascar – “I Like to Move It” Music Video
How to Train Your Dragon – “Fly High” Music Video / Dragons Continues – Promos for Dreamworks’ Dragons Riders of Berk and Dragons Defenders (Parts I and II for both) on DVD.
Kung Fu Panda – “Kung Fu Fighting” Music Video
The Croods – “Shine Your Way” Music Video / Theatrical Trailer
Turbo – “The Snail is Fast” Music Video / Theatrical Trailer
Mr. Peabody – Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
Fans of the Madagascar films will no doubt flock to see this one. It’s got everything that made those films enjoyable and then some. The comedic timing is in full swing, it’s got amazing picture and sound and enough supplements to warrant a purchase. There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes – that much I can tell you.