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March of the Penguins Review

By Joe Lozito

Fowl Play

There's something about penguins that is inherently silly. Maybe it's the way they drop to their stomachs and scuttle along the Antarctic ice, maybe it's their absurdly flightless nature, or maybe it's the fact that, from a distance, they resemble hunched old men in black raincoats. Whatever it is, penguins are fun to watch. It turns out, though, a little penguin goes a long way.

That's unfortunate for director Luc Jacquet, whose documentary "March of the Penguins" is 80 minutes of non-stop penguin hijinks. We watch in awe as the Emperor Penguins of the Antarctic leap from the frigid ocean onto an ice shelf. We gaze in wonder as they complete an arduous 70 mile hike across a frozen wasteland to their ancestral nesting ground to commence an annual mating ritual. We yawn in disbelief as they complete that same journey three more times to get something to eat.

Really, isn't anything easy in nature? These poor creatures pair off with a mate then take turns precariously squatting over an egg while the other walks 140 miles roundtrip to bring back food. There has to be an easier way.

There's some talk about the population of males being less than that of the females, and there's some intense footage of harsh Antarctic winters, but really if this is what it takes to procreate it's a wonder these animals aren't extinct. Of course, since this is a G-rated movie, nothing gets too out of hand. Mother Nature, it seems, is very neat and tidy. There's a laughably coy "love scene", an ominous leopard seal, and a few sad shots of chicks that didn't make it through the winter. Other than that, though, this isn't exactly "Penguins in the Mist".

It's clear from the dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman's poetic narration that this is not going to be a scientific study. I'm not sure if it's because we don't know anything about these birds or if it's that Mr. Jacquet is aiming more for the Walt Disney than the National Geographic crowd. Little is said about the evolutionary nature of penguins and it's never even made clear how to tell a male and female apart.

Though it seems like a somewhat wasted opportunity to shed some light on these creatures, you can't fault Mr. Jacquet for his efforts. As the ending credits display, his crew labored long and hard to capture these waddling wonders in their natural climate, all to make a point about the importance of love and survival. There's nothing silly about that.

What did you think?

Movie title March of the Penguins
Release year 2005
MPAA Rating G
Our rating
Summary Director Luc Jacquet's labored anthropomorphization of Emperor Penguins is essentially a children's movie disguised as a documentary.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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