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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 includes stunning but also occasionally disturbing imagery of penguins walking, mating, and dying. Morgan Freeman narrates as the penguins make their annual march 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.
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 are able to walk back to shore.
Is it any good?
Young children might be alarmed at several scenes that underline the severity of conditions the penguins face. They endure freezing temperatures, wind, and blizzards by gathering into a huge group. Some starve, some lose their eggs from under the protective folds of a mother or father's body and watch as the eggs crack in the instant cold, and still others (especially babies) are assaulted by predators.
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. release has Morgan Freeman narrating, with a script that occasionally overreaches: "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.
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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