A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Penguins of Madagascar is a nonstop action movie/spy thriller about the four madcap penguins from the Madagascar movies. Expect lots of explosions and chase scenes -- by plane, gondola, pest control truck, etc. -- that put the penguins in frequent peril; at one point, the team fears that one of their members has been killed. The penguins are fighting a team of evil octopi that are killed in different ways. There's a bit of crude humor (a penguin is cursed with a "butt hand") and one small, mild romantic subplot, but kids who like action, the Madagascar movies, and the penguins' TV show will enjoy the movie. Plus, there are positive messages about not judging others based on their appearance, as well as loyalty and bravery under pressure.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Madagascar's team of madcap penguins -- Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (John DiMaggio), and Private (Christopher Knights) -- find themselves in the hands of mad scientist Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich), who turns out to be the octopus "Dave" out for revenge. Dave is still furious over all the attention the adorable penguins stole from him at the zoo when they were younger, so he sets out to destroy them. The penguins escape Dave's clutches, only to be rescued by an elite team of secret agents called the North Wind who are led by the wolf known as "Classified" (Benedict Cumberbatch). They must work together to defeat Dave and save the penguins of the world.
Is it any good?
PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR is a fun spy thriller with elite secret agents and lots of action. The penguins are given a sweet back story about how they first came together in the Antarctic and eventually became secret agents. There's a lot to look at and laugh at, and fans of the Madagascar films will enjoy seeing the penguins again.
Cumberbatch is excellent as the James Bond-esque Wolf, who heads the North Wind. And Malkovich is perfectly creepy as Dave, the bitter octopus. The four penguins at the heart of the story are a funny, all-male family that are devoted to each other, which is cute -- but it's a shame that there's only one female character in the movie and she hardly has anything to do.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it's like to feel unappreciated. Private doesn't think that anyone realizes what an asset he is to the team. Have you ever felt undervalued? How did you handle it?
There's a lot of action and peril in Penguins. Was it ever scary, or did it have less impact because the characters are cartoon penguins/sea creatures? Did you have an idea of how things would turn out? Why?
Dave, the maniacal octopus, is overshadowed by the adorable penguins at the zoo. Kids: Have you ever resented younger siblings who might get more attention than you?
There's only one female character in Penguins of Madagascar. Does that have an impact on how you feel about it? Why is it important to have role models of both sexes in the media?
- In theaters: November 26, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2015
- Cast: Tom McGrath, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich
- Directors: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith
- Studio: DreamWorks Animation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Run time: 92 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild action and some rude humor
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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.