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March of the Penguins
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that March of the Penguins is an unforgettable nature documentary that includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual trek from the Antarctic shore in Antarctica. Some penguins die along the way, and others freeze during the long winter as they huddle to protect pregnant females and then eggs and babies, and still others are killed by predators.
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What's the story?
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is an account of the grueling annual trek made by Emperor penguins. Although temperatures reach 80 degrees below zero, these flightless birds trundle across the tundra, walking and sometimes sliding on their bellies over some 70 miles, from the shore to an inland plain. Here they mate, gestate, and lay eggs, after which the males take over to protect the eggs while the females head back to the sea to eat fish and do their best to avoid hungry sea lions. The females then head back to the plain, where reunited couples nurture adorable fuzzy little hatchlings until they're able to walk back to shore.
Is it any good?
This is a gorgeous, inspiring documentary for families with kids old enough to handle the peril. It's incredible to think that this annual journey to find a mate and start a family has been going on for centuries and that the penguins make the dangerous trip completely out of instinct. These animals are amazingly dedicated parents; if only all humans could be this devoted to their children.
The French-language version of Luc Jacquet's March of the Penguins reportedly featured voices for individual penguins, articulating joy and sadness. The U.S. version has Morgan Freeman narrating, with a script that occasionally gets a bit dramatic: "It's a story of survival, a story of life over death. It's a story about love." You see the penguins endure any number of hardships, look charming or awkward as they waddle, and even remarkably graceful when they crane their necks over one another or exchange gentle, seemingly loving beak-taps. It's a fantastic way to introduce older kids to documentaries; while the genre may have a "dry" reputation, there's nothing boring about this engrossing animal adventure.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about March of the Penguins' "humanizing" of the penguins, as it describes their sense of loss, fears, and aspirations. How does the movie make penguin pairs seem like romantic couples? How does the movie construct the penguins' sense of community or future? How might the penguins serve as documentary subjects even without such effort to anthropomorphize their feelings?
What role does the narration serve in heightening the visual elements of the documentary? What if there were no narration?
What is one new thing you learned about Emperor penguins after watching this movie?
- In theaters: June 24, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2005
- Cast: Morgan Freeman
- Director: Luc Jacquet
- Studio: Warner Independent
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Ocean Creatures, Science and Nature, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- MPAA explanation: All ages
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.