‘Penguins of Madagascar’ Review: The Culture of Cute

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Nov. 26, 2014 4:07 p.m. ET

Four penguins incited spies are a heroes of “Penguins of Madagascar,” a insane charcterised underline from DreamWorks. They are also penguins incited stars, carrying warranted their possess film on a strength of their cuteness quotient in prior installments of a “Madagascar” series. These penguins unequivocally are cute, a animation is consistently appealing, and a film is apparently firm for megamoolah during a box office. Yet it’s value observant another distinction, of sorts. The story line, a method of really loosely connected events, sustains a state of roughly pristine brainlessness with a insusceptibility to thespian growth and a dictates of logic, even a anticipation proof of cartoons. It’s as if many of a book had been generated by algorithms.

In a opening sequence, that is set in Antarctica, a emanate of adorability is addressed, with a shade of irony, by birds who are flightless yet distant from speechless. “We’re only penguins, zero yet lovable and cuddly. Why do we consider there are always documentary crews filming us?” In fact, they’re being filmed by a organisation whose executive sounds like Werner Herzog since he was uttered by Mr. Herzog (who pronounces a “add” sound of “waddling” like a “add” sound of “adding”). One thing leads quickly, if arbitrarily, to another. Soon we find penguins holding on a charge of perspicacious Fort Knox—the because of it being reduction impending than a why-not of it—then saving a universe from a insane scientist, Dr. Octavius Brine, who is indeed an octopus named Dave. (Both incarnations are uttered with wily odiousness by John Malkovich, while Benedict Cumberbatch voices, to obtuse effect, an clandestine user named Agent Classified.)

“Penguins of Madagascar” never lacks for visible variety: penguins in Rio and Shanghai; penguins in Venice, chasing along canals; a penguin in panties and bra; penguins in lederhosen; beast penguins with horns and lobster claws. The discourse is equally varied, yet infrequently puzzlingly so. Why does one penguin sound like a cranky between Cary Grant and Walter Brennan? Who’s a aim assembly for asides about taxation laws in France and NPR account drives, or for a dropping of names like Parker Posey, Robin Wright (as in “Robin, write this”) or Nicolas Cage (as in “Nicolas, enclosure them”). As a film hurtles this approach and that, there’s a clarity of recklessness that was simplified for me when a movement paused for a penguin contention about a correct diction of “diversion.” In a deficiency of substance, a whole film is a diversionary tactic.

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ENLARGE

‘Encounters during a End of a World’ (2007)

Werner Herzog—the genuine yet perennially charcterised Werner Herzog—in Antarctica for a documentary investigate of a smart, eccentric, indefatigable, philosophical and maudlin people who investigate that solidified continent. The film, that facilities extraordinary footage of underwater life, finds no snippet of articulate penguins, let alone view penguins, yet there are copiousness of flightless birds all a same. Mr. Herzog even asks about happy penguins, and a taciturn consultant acknowledges, after several seconds of courteous reflection, that he has seen “triangular relationships.”

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