Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Penguins Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Funny narration makes Arctic docu particularly kid-friendly.
  • G
  • 2019
  • 76 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 7+
Based on 4 reviews

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Audiences will learn quite a bit about Adélie penguin and its life cycle in Antarctica. Description and visuals of obstacles penguins face (predators, harsh conditions, etc.) teach younger viewers about what penguins go through to reproduce and survive each year.

Positive Messages

Encourages awareness of difficult conditions that penguins must survive each season to continue their species. Teaches audiences about how Antarctic penguins protect and provide for their chicks and the importance of perseverance and teamwork to the penguin parents as the two mates prepare their babies for their first trip to the open sea.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Penguins are good parenting role models in the sense that they go to great lengths (literally and figuratively) to provide warmth, shelter, food for offspring. They also teach their chicks how to swim, hunt, survive on their own.

Violence & Scariness

Some penguins are shown being killed by natural predators such as skuas, killer whales, leopard seals. In one case, one of Steve's chicks is nearly killed but survives. During windstorm, a female penguin and her eggs are buried in ice and presumed dead, but they survive. Emperor penguin chicks slap at Steve, and young Adélie chicks chase Steve for food.

Sexy Stuff

Audiences see penguins participating in mating rituals: nest-building, loud calls, snuggling/nuzzling. Narration jokes about "Steve" needing to find and attract a mate. Steve stumbles across a rookery of elephant seals huddled together during mating season (narration doesn't explain, but it's a male surrounded by a harem of females, as is custom in elephant seal mating).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Penguins is Disneynature's documentary about an Adélie penguin's first year as an adult during breeding season in Antarctica. Narrated by Ed Helms and co-directed by critically acclaimed wildlife documentarian Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, the film focuses on a different species of penguin than 2005's March of the Penguins (those were Emperors), although the larger birds still make a comedic appearance. There's slightly less natural-world peril/violence in this film than in similar documentaries, but you can still expect brief scenes of predators swiping and eating eggs and killing chicks and even grown penguins. But the scenes aren't bloody or graphic in any way, and none of the main animals come to serious harm. Audiences see mating rituals, and there are jokes about a penguin needing to find and attract a mate. With its funny narration and on-the-nose soundtrack, Penguins is obviously geared toward families with younger kids -- who will learn a lot about penguins and pick up messages of teamwork and perseverance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bytopolina April 24, 2019

Great movie overall - dramatic/intense scenes may upset young viewers

Overall this was a great movie (I even enjoyed the humor of the narration and stunning scenery). As noted in the summary above, there is a scene with a leopard... Continue reading
Adult Written byAllyhondrowGonzalez April 23, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written byshicknrxses April 5, 2021

A great movie; family friendly and humorous for the most part.

I turned this on in my room and it attracted the attention of all my younger siblings, a 5 year old, an 8 year old, and a 10 year old. And of course, myself, a... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bypapaya... April 25, 2019

Kinda sad

This movie is pretty funny and has lots of jokes, but it’s really sad. Most kids may cry at certain parts. For example when the penguin is lost, but most confli... Continue reading

What's the story?

Narrated by Ed Helms, PENGUINS follows a male Adélie penguin -- dubbed "Steve" -- who's joining adult society in his first breeding season in uncompromising Antarctica. Directed by award-winning wildlife filmmaker Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, the documentary follows Steve as he travels to a rocky Antarctic beach, attempts to lure a potential mate by building a nest, and finds Adeline, his mate. The focus then shifts to the penguin mates as they work together to keep their two eggs (and, later, chicks) warm, well fed, and away from predators like skuas, killer whales, and leopard seals. To accomplish their parenting goal of fattening up their chicks in time to return to the open sea, Steve and Adeline take turns going on long round-trip treks to secure food for their babies.

Is it any good?

Technically brilliant with charming (if verging on overly cute) narration, this documentary is sure to delight kids. Penguins will also remind audiences of all ages that the Antarctic animals may be adorable, but they're also tough survivors that overcome unthinkably harsh conditions and a full slate of predators to fulfill their annual duty to reproduce. Steve is a lovable everyman type. He's not a preening alpha male; he even has some of his best rocks stolen from him as he tries to build a desirable enough nest to attract a mate. It's his first year on the scene as an adult, Helms explains, so it's a pleasant development when he meets his partner, Adeline, with whom he begins the arduous journey of penguin parenthood. The visuals are stunning as Steve goes from one of countless bachelors to new mate to father.

The best nature documentaries are amazing feats of technology and artistry, and this is no exception. Purists may bristle at the penguins being humanized, but it's definitely a kid-friendly tactic to structure the film like a family comedy with high stakes. There's more peril than actual violence, plus a few wink-wink nods at mating season rituals (particularly those of the polygynous -- and apparently stinky -- elephant seals) that will likely go over smaller heads. The soundtrack is full of telling throwback pop and rock ballads like REO Speedwagon's "Can’t Fight This Feeling," Average White Band's "Work to Do," and Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" that make the action even funnier to watch. Penguins isn't trying to surpass March of the Penguins, but it's a light and sweet ode to the tough, tender Adélies.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the peril/violence in Penguins. Is it appropriate for the target audience? How much violence is too much for kids?

  • What did you learn about Adélie penguins from watching this documentary? What do you think of them as parents?

  • How does the narration add to the story? What if there were no narration? Do you prefer nature documentaries with funny narration or more serious, matter-of-fact narration?

  • How is perseverance displayed in the film? Why is this an important character strength?

  • How do penguin parents provide an example of teamwork? How does it feel when you're part of a team that's working well together?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Character Strengths

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