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Penguins of Madagascar

Movie review by
Yvonne Condes, Common Sense Media
Penguins of Madagascar Movie Poster Image
Entertaining Madagascar spin-off mixes peril and humor.
  • PG
  • 2014
  • 92 minutes
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 25 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids may learn a bit about penguins in the wild.

Positive Messages

Don't judge others by their appearance. Private is adorable, but there's much more to him -- Skipper realizes that it's not what you look like but what you do that counts. Other themes include loyalty and bravery under pressure.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Private wants everyone to realize what a valued member of the team he really is. Skipper says that what someone looks like doesn’t matter -- it's what they do. Skipper and the team look out for each other and care for others no matter the cost. On the downside, there's only one female character in the movie, and she's a love interest who has few lines.  

Violence & Scariness

At one point the penguins think that Private has been killed. Lots of chases/explosions/scenes of peril. The penguins are kidnapped by an evil scientist that turns out to be an evil octopus plotting to kidnap all of the world's penguins. Penguins are put in cages like jails. The penguins fight octopi. A monster penguin eats a baby kitten, then spits it out. The penguins get sucked out of a plane, are trapped on a boat with no food or water, and are turned into monsters.

Sexy Stuff

Kowalski has a love interest, Eva the owl. He follows her around, and she kisses him in one of the last scenes. His face has lipstick marks all over it.


Pop culture references take the place of swear words (like "Parker Posey!"). "It's flipping useless" in reference to flippers. After the penguins get transformed into monsters, one has a "butt hand" -- a hand coming out of his butt (they explain it in case it wasn't clear). 


The penguins eat brandless cheese poofs. Many off-screen consumer tie-ins, including games, toys, and other merchandise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One scene where government agents are sitting on what's supposed to be a yacht drinking what looks like champagne.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bynickg20 December 3, 2014
Adult Written byGolden Shark November 29, 2014

A big disappointment

This was one of the worst animation movies we have seen lately. The story line is not well articulated and the characters are not well defined. The best of the... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old December 16, 2014

Totally Awesome!

This movie is great for ages 7+. It is filled with action and adventure. There were evil octopi, but they were funny and were very odd-looking, and talked the... Continue reading
Kid, 7 years old January 17, 2015

My review

Tip for kids 7 and under: May be too scary or tense when Dave kidnaps Private.

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?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love animation

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