P-p-p-p-pick up the penguins
Penguins of Madagascar (U)
Running time 92 minutes
The world as we know it – at least the one inside cinemas – is being taken over by strange animals.
First, there was the invasion of the acting donkeys – think Nativity 3 – then there was the duffel-coated bear – adorable Paddington – and now we are offered a group of weird penguins, escapees from an earlier movie about animals living in Madagascar.
Penguins of Madagascar is, hopefully, the last squeeze of the pips from the lemon of film creativity known as Hollywood, the ever-obliging public having enjoyed Madagascar 1, 2 and 3 in seemingly decreasing amounts over the years.
Now, this prequel takes up the story of the four demented penguins, who imagine they are top secret agents working for no-one in particular, but managing to perform amazing stunts that usually involve expelling wind or other noxious substances at inappropriate moments.
Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights) escape from the Antarctic by being clever and realising that huddling together in vast crowds for warmth is not an entirely productive way to live.
They end up being rescued fromdisaster by a real secret agent group called the North Wind, whose top agent, called Classified (it takes too long to explain), is voiced by that very busy boy, Benedict Cumberbatch.
The two groups face the evil Dr Octavius Brine (John Malkovitch), who is really an octopus who hates penguins because they are cute, while people in zoos hate him because he is ugly.
He intends to create ugly monster penguins to take over the world and so the North Wind and penguins must defeat him, which involves lots of wind being expelled, noxious substances created, plentiful inappropriate noises and the use of German Lederhosen dance.
Still, it’s all good clean fun and some of the wisecracks are very sharp, although even the best of the jokes, having been recycled from some of the previous three films, tends to lose impact.
Directed by Eric Darnell , who helmed the previous Madagascar movies, and aided by newcomer to the franchise, Simon J Smith, the film rattles along at a great pace.
The excellent animation comes courtesy of Dreamworks and helps raise the cost of the film to an astonishing $132m, which is about what the British film industry would use to create a dozen or so perfectly good films.
Still, one mustn’t be peevish about these things.
We ought to be grateful that Hollywood allows us to watch their creations at all, and if one was
perfectly honest, there have been some quite astonishing movies in recent months, both American and British, and for that we really are truly grateful.