Penguins 3D

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Penguins 3D Movie Poster Image
Nature docu follows King penguin's quest to raise a family.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 78 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids will learn all about King penguins -- the second largest species of penguins (only Emperor penguins are larger) -- where they live (sub-Antarctic shores like "Penguin City" on the shores of South Georgia island), how they mate (monogamously per breeding season), and how they raise their young. The documentary also explores which predators the King penguins face, both while fishing for the food to feed their offspring and back on shore.

Positive Messages

Like many nature documentaries, the film is a positive nonfiction account of how animals overcome astounding odds to procreate and thrive under harsh conditions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's hard to consider non-humans role models, but from a human perspective, King penguins are admirable in the way they share the workload of caring for their egg/chick by taking turns to fish and feed it. The penguins also have to be quick hunters and even quicker swimmers to avoid detection from the various predators on both land and sea.

Violence & Scariness

Some predator danger; an adult male is killed and an egg broken.

Sexy Stuff

Some discussion of mating practices.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Penguins 3D -- which is also known as The Penguin King -- is a documentary that educates audiences not about those trendy Emperor penguins, but the second-largest species, the King penguins of the sub-Antarctic. David Attenborough narrates the story of South Georgia Island's "Penguin City," where tens of thousands of mature King penguins descend each year to mate and raise baby chicks. (In the United States, another version of the film narrated by Tim Allen -- Adventures of the Penguin King -- is more readily available.) Similar to the main "characters" in March of the Penguins and other comparable animal documentaries, the King penguins face staggering odds of survival -- from the elements, as well as predators like leopard seals, Skua birds, and killer whales. An egg is broken and a male adult killed, but otherwise Penguins 3D is fine for even little penguin lovers.

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What's the story?

PENGUINS 3D is the latest nature documentary from esteemed English naturalist and writer David Attenborough, who narrates the story of the King penguins of South Georgia Island. The King penguins, like their slightly larger cousins the Emperor penguins (so entertainingly depicted in March of the Penguins) live in what Attenborough calls "Penguin City." There, each year, the male penguins court female penguins and -- after a flick of the throat and some beak bobbing -- the monogamous penguins mate for the season. The male penguin stays on the beach to care for their egg/chick, while the female returns to the sea to fish and store up food to feed their ravenous offspring. But deadly predators are all around, threatening the annual penguin life cycle: killer whales, Skua birds, leopard seals, and more. Find out whether a particular family of penguins survives the odds and successfully raises their chick to adulthood.

Is it any good?

Nature documentaries about cute and cuddly animals are hard to resist, even if you've seen most of the specifics before in other documentaries (or even animated movies like Happy Feet). And there's an undeniable charm to penguins, who -- like many humans -- raise one baby and must feed and protect it. Plus, as many of us already know, penguins mate monogamously, sharing a special call that only their mate and chick will answer to as the family units attempt to reunite after perilous journeys back to the ocean for sustenance. Penguins 3D is a tale as old as time, but it's hard to look away when those vicious Skua birds are approaching and the leopard seals are circling.

Those who can't get enough of penguin stories will enjoy the specifics of yet another species of the black-and-white birds: the determined males keeping their eggs warm; the females keeping predators at bay in order to stuff their gullets to regurgitate back to their fuzzy baby chicks. But audiences who aren't as easily won over by penguins may get a bit bored, particularly if they're already familiar with the habitats and life cycles of other penguins. Nature fans and penguin pals will want to add PENGUINS 3D to their to-be-seen queue, while those who prefer their penguins to tap dance and sing might want to stick with more animated adaptations of penguin life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss why penguins are so fascinating. Why are there so many more documentaries about penguins compared to other animals? What makes them so appealing?

  • Does Penguins 3D make penguins seem human or like animals? Is it troublesome to attribute human personality traits to animals? How does the documentary avoid comparing penguins to people?

  • What animals do you wish there were more documentaries about? Are there any other animals in this film that you're curious about?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

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