Penguins of Madagascar is directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith. Darnell directed the three Madagascar films as well as Antz (1998) while Smith is more of a new comer who has done visual effect work on Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004). Alongside the regular Penguin cast there are the voice talents of Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich.
The story takes us back to the early lives of Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private before we see them making a run for it from the circus that featured in Madagascar 3 (2012). During a heist at Fort Knox the gang are kidnapped by the dastardly Dave the Octopus (Malkovich) who has plans for all penguins everywhere. Rico’s ingenuity allows them to escape with the help of a a mysterious organisation led by Classified (Cumberbatch). Can the two teams come together to thwart Dave and his henchmen?
There’s always a nervousness when side characters from a popular franchise are spun off into their own film. Fortunately it pays off on this occasion as it delivers on the laughs from start to finish. I’m desperate to talk about some of the jokes but I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone. I got quite giddy thanks to the Star Trek and Star Wars references ‘stay on target’. You also need to listen out for the various Hollywood star names that are shoe-horned into the script in various clever ways.
There are two vocal performances that I need to mention. The first is that of Benedict Cumberbatch as the leader of The North Wind. Because of the dramatic roles that he is known for I forget how much of a sense of humour he has. I was further reminded of it when listening to his best mans speech in an episode of Sherlock. He stands toe-to-toe with the Penguins and trades laugh-for-laugh. The other performance is that of John Malkovich who is so good I didn’t realise it was him doing the voice. It’s a fantastic moustache twirling villain voice-over.
I don’t have any major criticisms but the film does appear to borrow inspiration from one aspect of its story from Despicable Me 2 (2013). Penguins of Madagascar is not as good as that film but it’s a bright and breezy 90 minutes that provides more entertainment that most films. I would recommend it for a quiet Sunday afternoon to perk yourself up.