The beginning of The Penguins of Madagascar pokes fun at what’s become a documentary subgenre: penguins being adorable.
And that’s not the only fun in the movie made of the real-life penguin phenomenon: the villain of the movie is an evil octopus (voiced by John Malkovich) who’s been pushed out of several zoos by much cuter penguin exhibits.
Life does imitate art. The popularity of movies like the Madagascar series creates awareness of the real life animals. For example, at the Bronx Zoo, visitors can check out the Madagascar exhibit with assorted adorable lemurs, hissing cockroaches, and the impressive Nile crocodile I walked through this exhibit with my twins on a rainy day earlier this month as part of a press event sponsored by 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks Animation for the premiere of The Penguins of Madagascar.
It’s been over twenty years since I’d been to the zoo and my twins had never been visited, so we were as excited about seeing the animals as meeting the fictional penguins.
The standout on our visit was the Nile Crocodile who opened his mouth and roared. I backed up, even with the glass separating us. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of him.
After the zoo, we went to a screening of The Penguins of Madagascar.
So, did we prefer the real thing or movie?
This particular day was cold and rainy, which didn’t bother the penguins or the sea lions at the zoo, but wasn’t ideal for those of us not used to living in the water. The screening following our zoo visit was particularly welcome, being warm and dry.
If you’re familiar with the movie series or the Penguins’ own television show, then you know that Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private are bundles of energy who can basically do anything. Even when they fail, they succeed. The movie follows the origin of the group–Skipper, Kowalski and Rico save Private from being abandoned–and moves quickly into a quest for their favorite cheezy dibbles. (Obviously a missed opportunity for Cheese Puffs advertising.) Standing in their way is the slimy John Malkovich as Dave the Octopus, who is determined to get revenge on all zoos and all penguins and the movie becomes an international thriller.
Dave’s crazy animated poses and Malkovich’s slimy voice made him a perfect James Bond-ian villain. Toss in Benedict Cumberbatch as suave spy Classified and you basically have the penguin version of the Three Stooges trying to save all the penguins.
Not exactly scientifically accurate and entirely ridiculous, but excellent entertainment.
Bronx Zoo: educational and always worth a visit.
The Penguins of Madagascar: ridiculous and always worth a smile.