Penguins of Madagascar

Cast: [voices] Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annet Mahendru, Peter Stormare
Direction: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith
Genre: Animation
Duration: 1 hour 32 minutes

STORY: Four penguins break into Fort Knox for what they consider to be worth more than gold – a vending machine of ‘Cheezy Puffs’. Once inside, they are kidnapped by the octopus Dave (Malkovich) who nurses an old grudge against them. They escape but now have to foil Dave’s master plan to disfigure all creatures cute and cuddly.

REVIEW: We start off with the origin story of the four. While very young, Skipper (McGrath), Kowalski (Miller) and Rico (Vernon) break away from the pack in order to save a penguin egg. When it hatches, they adopt the baby, who they name Private (Knights). Curious about what lies beyond their polar surroundings, they hitch a ride on a floating iceberg and set out to see what the world has to offer.

Years later, they escape a circus (where they are stars) and head to Fort Knox to buy packets of cheese crisps – Private’s birthday present. While clueless about why Dave has captured them and taken them to his headquarters in Venice, he tells the puzzled penguins that the public’s love for them at zoos meant that he was blatantly ignored every time. He’s therefore determined to disfigure them and all the cute penguins of the world (whom he blames for his misery) by zapping them with a ‘Medusa Serum’ so that people will then despise their appearance. Somehow, they escape Dave’s lair but after his minion octopuses chase them through Venetian streets, the penguins are saved by a mixed-species elite force called North Wind, comprising Classified (Cumberbatch), Short Fuse (Jeong), Eva (Mahendru) and Corporal (Stormare).

The penguins still need to stop Dave and North Wind too needs to apprehend him. After a few hiccups, the anthropomorphic animals pool in their efforts to bring Dave down. The pace is brisk – frenzied, even – the animation topnotch and the script is full of witticisms, puns (“Drew, Barry – more power!” Or “Nicolas, Cage – the penguins!”) and there are jokes aplenty for the kiddies as well as belly-busters for the grown-ups. And of course, the penguins are simply adorable.

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