Penguins Of Madagascar review (3D Blu-ray)

>For nearly a decade those wascally penguins have been up to no good amid the adventures of Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman, going from New York zoo to Madagascar and beyond, and while Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private had their own spin-off TV series for a few years, the feature film spin-off was an inevitability that capitalism thrives off.

Utilising the feature cast rather than those from the show (meaning John DiMaggio doesn't provide the slight grunts and growls of Rico), Dreamworks' Penguins Of Madagascar seemingly plays things safe by overblowing everything we know about the deftly smart and defiant birds – their scheming, their ability to use human vehicles and weapons, their kung-fu mastery – and takes them on a spy adventure across the world. This could go very badly if there wasn't a lot of self-aware acknowledgment over the goofy cartoonish nature of everything that happens in the film.

We open in Antartica, many years before the Madagascar trilogy, as Werner Herzog's documentarian narrates the penguins' natural habitat, but when an egg rolls away from the colony, only young Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Miller, not to be confused with Chris Miller of Lord & Miller fame, also a great voice artist) and Rico (Vernon) break nature's cycle and chase after the egg. Inside is cute, sweet young Private (Knights), and when the four are isolated from the colony together, they declare themselves a family and head off from Antarctica to explore the world. Like Venice, Dublin, Shanghai's Irish District and New York.

The film's main plot centres on a vindictive octopus named Dave (Malkovich), who has a vendetta against the adorable and acrobatic penguins. Why? We don't yet know, but Dave's got the goods to do bad, and  will do very bad as soon as he can. But that's not the only issue facing our non-flying feathered heroes – an Arctic spy team, the North Wind, is tracking Dave as well, and smug wolf leader, whose name is [Classified] (Cumberbatch) will do anything to stop Dave, except work with those penguins. Cue two squads vying for the same target, one using gadgets, pizazz and money, the other using flippers and friendship.

Dreamworks' Penguins Of Madagascar is a crazy hectic bizarre and wonderful cartoon, a Mission: Impossible for all ages, with a joke rate as high as The LEGO Movie and visual ideas that are creative as well as hysterical. As a spy caper the film is absolute gold, as a comedy it works completely, and as a sweet story with a nice message, well it's that too. But most importantly it has a series of brilliantly funny Hollywood name gags as Dave gives orders to his octopus minions - such as: "William, hurt them!" And: "Elijah, would you please get them?" And: "Drew, Barry, more power!" Certainly the insane and crazy slapstick of the film will win the younger members of the audience over more than the references and wordplay, but the older viewers will appreciate both of these things and be in utter movie heaven.

Penguins Of Madagascar is a film that has made Werner Herzog say "Fluffy wuffy" in a genuinely cute voice, and John Makovich say "Yippy-yay" with complete and utter glee – for that alone it's not only worth seeing but worth loving forever more. At the end of a strong year of family films, Penguins Of Madagascar makes a great case for itself with fun, visual ingenuity, an amazing script with brilliant voice acting and jokes by the inflatable lifeboat-load. The best characters in the Madagascar franchise get the spin-off they deserved. An unreservedly brilliant time.

 

3D QUALITY ★★★ To be honest, the film is so good that it's just as enjoyable in 2D as it is in 3D. But the good news is that, if you saw The LEGO Movie in the cinema in 3D, well the experience at home is just as good – clear, crisp 3D with minimal ghosting. The depth and dimensionality are both excellent - the characters almost bounce out of the screen, while the cityscapes have believable depth to them It's a very immersive experience, and proves once again that the best 3D we're getting at the moment is in animated films.

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Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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