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Penguins of Madagascar (2014)
The movie event that will blow their cover

Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private join forces with undercover organization The North Wind to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it.

Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

Films on Top of Films

Some reviews you will read may remark on how self-aware this is as a movie. The target audience of kids won‘t get any of the movie references, but some of their parents will. It is pretty obvious that a strategy of the producers was to satisfy the two audiences with different techniques. For the kids, well there is kid stuff: some small drama and lots of motion. The adults are assumed to be fully aware through the whole experience that they are in a film they cannot engage with.

So there is a layer of references that sometimes are jokes but mostly constitute the narrative of: ‘we know you are there and think this movie is silly, so here is some movie silliness for you.’ Someone somewhere likely has a list of these.

The one that I really appreciated is the biggest, earliest one, and surely the deepest.

The movie is framed first as a documentary leading to an origin episode.

All of us have suffered through Morgan Freeman‘s avuncular treacle about the wonder of penguins. Here we have ‘documentarian‘ Werner Herzog aping the same thing, but not to celebrate the wonder of it, but the desperate cruelty.

Now the thing is that Herzog at one time mattered. He changed dreams. He risked everything for his art and gave us worlds we now assume were always there. Now he is content to be a modern Robert Ripley with a minor career in parodying himself.

Because his appearance is the first of the adult layer of the movie, one would expect it to be gently silly. All the movie references that follow are. But no, someone who knows about these things decided that the creation of this folded adult narrative had to be bold, obvious and intelligent. I can just imagine him trying to sell this to the corporate story executives as a way to match Pixar in narrative sophistication.

Well, it worked for me. While a two and three year old sat next to me, surfing the kiddie layer, I actually watched this gently residing in an adult film lover‘s layer. It wasn‘t particularly satisfying, but I didn‘t get sick. The last attempt for me at watching with the kids was ‘The Lego Movie’ We had to leave, in part because it decided to have one layer, one narrative that satisfied adults and kids. The requirement for in-narrative irony was too much to let the movie breathe.

Posted in 2014

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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