Cute and well-lensed, “Penguins” plays nice with wild animals making it wholesome family entertainment.
When Steve, an Adélie penguin, gets separated from his group, he’s got to make up for lost time. Scurrying across the icy Antarctic, the little guy is in search of his fellow penguins and hopes to find a mate for the winter. And we’re along for the ride, as Steve finds a place to bed down, build a nest and, hopefully, attract a significant other.
Brilliantly shot and edited, “Penguins” is an endearing and safe take on a chapter in a penguin’s life. Actor Ed Helms imbues good-natured humor into what is a life-and-death struggle. The incremental approach is informative, if a little too sanitized. For example, when the penguins are stalked by sea lions, we see some penguins eaten by the lions, but thankfully, Steve isn’t one of them. My thought is that Steve wasn’t the only penguin tracked by the film crew.
Back in 2011, my then 7-year-old daughter, Layla, and I attended a screening of “Disneynature: African Cats.” And as I remember it, one of the cats was named Layla. When Layla didn’t make it, my daughter had a complete melt-down. Still, she loved the film. We took in this movie together and Layla’s 15. She was happy that “Penguins” is much more upbeat and playful, by comparison. And at just one hour 16 minutes, it’s perfect for the squirmy, little, little ones.
Still, if you’re looking for a hard-hitting movie that educates you and your children about the practices of penguins, warts and all, you probably should watch (or re-watch) 2005’s Oscar-winning “March of the Penguins.” This penguins movie takes few risks narratively. But as the credits roll, it is clear that the crew who captured the movie dealt with difficult conditions and captured more reality than what ultimately ends up on screen.