The Penguins of Madagascar
2014 animated spin-off
Rating: 13/20 (Abbey: 13/20; Buster: 20/20)
Plot: A quartet of clever penguins try to stop an evil octopus from doing something dastardly.
This was recommended multiple times by my friend Josh, but I hesitated for a few reasons. First, my own kid didn't even want to watch it. Second, I really hated Madagascar. Third, I suspected that Josh was trying to get revenge for my recommendation of Trash Humpers.
This is better than Madagascar. The animation is lively, the story reminded me of the chaotic freewheeling fun of old Looney Tunes cartoons, the penguin characters (well, at least three of them) have likable personalities, there are some cute visual gags, and John Malkovich is as good voicing an evil octopus as you think he'd be. I wonder how Malkovich felt about some of the puns, a lot of them plays on celebrity names, he had to get through with this thing. "Nicolas, cage them." "Hugh, Jack, man the battle stations." "Kevin, bake on." When I first met Malkovich in movies, he seemed humorless to me, the type of actor who would probably bite somebody on the head if he even heard a pun. It wasn't really until Being John Malkovich that I saw him differently. Movies like this are sometimes only as good as their bad guys, and this shape-shifting octopus is a pretty good one.
The best thing about this, and what hooked me since it was right at the beginning of the movie, is that Werner Herzog provides his voice (that voice!) as a documentary filmmaker. I'm sure that was a stretch for him. I'm willing to bet this is the first time Herzog's said the words "chubby bum bums."
Once the story really settles in, it becomes a little predictable and loses steam. I also didn't like the North Face, a high-tech undercover spy organization, much. Scenes feel superfluous, and I think any more time spent with these characters would have been too much time. But there's enough fun for both adults and kids.