Review: Penguins Of Madagascar

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We need look no further than the latest John Lewis campaign for the appeal of fluffy penguins, writes Natalie Stendall.

DreamWorks’ Madagascar spin-off arrives just in time to cash in on this penguin fever.

Our increasing fascination with the antarctic bird is not lost on longtime franchise director Eric Darnell and co-director Simon J. Smith (Bee Movie). Their clever opening scenes deliver a wry comment on penguin appeal and a spoof of 2005’s Oscar winning documentary March Of The Penguins.

The result is a witty origin story for action heroes Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private whose dry comedy and courage defy our expectations of the waddling, flightless birds.

Grown-up viewers are in for a scattering of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ visual gags, celebrity play-on-words and daft shenanigans.

Vengeful octopus Dave, whose villainous plotting rapidly outpaces his own capability, is Penguin’s brilliant new creation. But the opportunity to inject a raft of irresistible new characters is then promptly wasted in bland animal spy team, The North Wind, headed by a hyper-intelligent but cowardly wolf (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Before long, Dave sets out on a monster-making plan and the plot stumbles into Despicable Me 2 territory. It’s an unfortunate comparison and Penguins Of Madagascar simply can’t measure up. They might be the most charismatic of the Madagascar gang, but here the penguins minimise their grown-up wit in favour of childish slapstick.

Parents might leave a little disappointed but the kids will love it.

Verdict: ✭✭3/5