Happiest Feet Ever

Spin-off. Side story. Profit maker. Whatever the case or label, Penguins of Madagascar is raucously enthusiastic. The puns are as voracious as the pace.

The set-up is simple: A squiggly (squiddly?) villain, four accidentally genius penguins, and a team-up with other furry animals who may as well be the original Madagascar crew but they are not. But they should be. Totally.

It’s a spy thriller so prepare to soak in the espionage cliches. There is a super duper secret MI6-ish squad of mammals – North Wind – who butt heads with the slightly egotistical Penguins crew, despite both parties aiming for the same goal to take down Dave. He’s a jerk. And a squid. No one likes Dave.

All of this excitement is almost careless. It’s easy to be burned out.

There are all manner of action scenes, rifled off one after the other with barely any time to settle down. It’s utterly desperate not to lose its audience. All of this excitement is almost careless. It’s easy to be burned out. Penguins opens with Werner Herzog doing voice narration, a masterstroke of self-awareness, before ditching him for explosions. A slew of flying sequences are included too. It’s notably ironic.

Character is limited. The stars have been over established in the main Madagascar series and a TV show. North Wind may as well have action figures peddled at the door. Only Dave is given justice, almost entirely on the back of John Malkovich’s manic performance. His villainous spiel, based on his succession at the zoo due to the introduction of penguins, is lively. He’s colorfully mad, even as he slickly uses celebrity names to dish out orders.

It is all forgettable. Penguins will have its run until the next hyper active dollop of animated color spills onto screens. It is not a film of any heart and dumps its morals in a, “we totally almost forgot to include some” monologue with minutes to go. Be yourself, looks don’t matter, etc. Penguins goes to extraordinary length to finally deliver such a familiar passage. There is no harm in getting there though. Eighty minutes, one and done. That’s the extent of the value offered. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Villain, form 2 @ 15:15

Look! Feathers! Lots of them actually. Penguins features an alluring lighting scheme which tends to fluff up the leads. The Blu-ray is happy to reproduce the animation. Each feather is visible and defined. Beaks are sharply rendered, and fur on North Wind members is tremendous.

Continue over to the side of evil for gooey, clearly moistened skin. The squids glisten under any light source. Their color is immense too – same goes for the rest of the movie. Primaries are represented en masse with support from everything else. City establishing shots pour on the saturation and detail as well.

Sharpness? Please. If there was a discussion of sharpness in every CG animated film, it may as well be cut & pasted from the last one. There is no difference here from any other Dreamworks offering. Penguins does not pull any tricks. Contrast and black levels are likewise exquisite.

On the 3D end, it is almost all positives as well. A spectacular fireworks display (too brief, really) opens the title card and Penguins of Madagacar becomes gratuitous with the format from there. Pop out and accentuation is constant. Items are poked toward the virtual camera, even stubby beaks have depth, and again, the sheer amount of aerial flying scenes is absurd. Each carries a highlight reel.

Subtle touches, such as the interior of a mouth, feel rounded. Penguins is well considered 3D for sure. It comes to a point where it seems to be prepared to set a new standard and then… well, it disappoints. During the finale’s action, the frame squishes to a faux 2.35:1 as if ready to create chaos. Sadly, it’s restrained. Only a few penguins slip out of the image’s barriers. Plus, there is a nighttime infiltration of Dave’s lair which while set-up with a stupendous holographic display, succumbs to unavoidable cross talk in the dark. This is not a short scene. Penguins is fond of the 3D technology overall though. [xrr rating=5/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=4/5 label=3D-Video]

Spacious and active, the offered DTS-HD 7.1 mix is able to keep up with the mass of sound being pushed through it. Imaging is accurate, ever fluid as the film picks up pace. Voices are of the traveling variety, ditching the comfort of the center with some frequency. Additional rears are put to constant use. The 7.1 space is not wasteful.

Subwoofers will be pushing plenty of air, if not to the extent of more adult fare. Jet engines are thorough in building up a wall of LFE. Explosions are no slouch either, but still feel slightly held back. It’s the only thing in Penguins which feels neglected at all. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Not much here, even if the list seems long. Most of these are comedy shorts. Top Secret Guide to Being a Secret Agent is the longest of the lot at 3:40, teaching the skills to be an actual agent rather than in the style of the Penguins. A slew of music bonuses, from dance to music videos are fluff for the younger set. There’s an ad for Cheezy Dibbles, a snack featured prominently in the movie, a deleted scene, and a recap of Madagascar moments starring the birds. In total, it’s mere minutes worth of material. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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