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9 reviews, 49 user ratings

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March of the Penguins
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by Peter Sobczynski

"How Tennessee Tuxedo Got His Groove Back"
3 stars

I have been struggling for a few hours now to come up with a review of the new nature film “March of the Penguins” and I still have no idea what to say about it. On the one hand, it is a fairly icky film that slavishly attempts to follow the template of the freakishly successful 2003 documentary “Winged Migration” by fusing together admittedly impressive nature footage with syrupy New Age music in an attempt to convince viewers that they are seeing something profound and mystical instead of simply a modern-day retread of those old Disney Tru-Life Adventure films. On the other hand, it is a film that revolves entirely around penguins, a creature for whom I will readily admit to having had a lifelong affection for–no doubt the combined result of their natty appearance, their poker-faced demeanor and a childhood adoration for the beloved likes of Tennessee Tuxedo and Opus. Therefore, do I damn the film for being a drippy trifle or do I praise it for showcasing such a magnetic creature? Hopefully by the time I reach the end of my allotted white space, I will have an answer for you.

Simply put, Luc Jacquet’s film follows the Emperor penguin as it embarks on the incredibly hazardous journey that it undergoes every year through the wilds of Antarctica in order to propagate the species. After filling up on food for months, the males emerge from the sea and begin their long journey through 70 miles of rough terrain, sub-sub zero temperatures and bitter winds to reach their breeding grounds. Once they arrive, they meet up with the females that have already arrived and make with their best penguin pick-up lines. Before long, the various couples get it on and lay their eggs. At this point, the females set off to the ocean to load up on food for themselves and their offspring while the males carefully guard over the eggs as they await their return. This is far more difficult than it sounds–the fragile eggs can be destroyed in an instant, the fathers could freeze to death in the unimaginable cold and/or the mothers could be consumed by the sea lions that also patrol the waters.

All of this is captured for us by Jacquet and his crew, who spent over a year shooting in the frigid Antarctic and they returned with some fascinating footage. Some of the scenes are hilarious–there is something about the sight of penguins waddling across the snow and ice that is inherently amusing. Some of them are suspenseful–the sequence in which the mother passes their eggs to the fathers is as nail-biting as anything that you will encounter in “War of the Worlds.” Some of them are heartbreaking–we see glimpses of frozen baby penguins and one distraught mother who, having lost her own child, tries to claim another’s for her own. Some show things that I never could have contemplated that I would see in my lifetime–would you believe a penguin catfight?

This stuff is neat and if it had been boiled down to a 30 minute show on Animal Planet, I would have recommended it without hesitation. My problem is that I personally can only take so much of the sight of animals cavorting in nature and at 80 minutes, “March of the Penguins” exceeds my personal limits by about 40-odd minutes. Additionally, I tend to object to the attempts by filmmakers such as Jacquet who attempt to “humanize” their stories by cutting footage in such a way so that the penguins seem to be acting just like you and I. I should note, however, that the original French version of the film took this notion even further–it actually featured the penguins “speaking” dialogue in an effort to give the footage more dramatic heft. (Thankfully, this version has avoided that gimmick and instead uses a reasonably restrained, if superfluous, narration from Morgan Freeman in its place.)

There are a couple of other problems that I had with the film. I understand that it is trying to simply be a straightforward depiction showing penguin reproduction at its most adorable but it raises questions that it never bothers to answer. Simply put: why don’t the penguins save themselves a lot of grief and simply move the breeding grounds closer to the ocean? I am sure that there is a good reason for why they don’t and I, for one, would love to know it but the filmmakers don’t bother to share it. Also, a certain amount of repetition begins to set in after a while–there are only so many ways that someone can visualize a group of penguins massing upon a frozen wasteland and Jacquet exhausts them long before the end credits roll.

“March of the Penguins” is a movie made for a specific audience and I am perfectly willing to admit that I am not a part of that audience. So while I cannot quite personally recommend it, I will admit that anyone who thinks that it sounds like an interesting film probably will get a lot more out of it than I did. How to identify if you are such a person? Well, if you are still reading this review and are not under any personal or professional obligation to do so, you might want to check it out for yourself.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11299&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/07/05 23:54:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Atlanta Film Festival For more in the 2005 Atlanta Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/15/14 Peter M Great subject turned into sentimental nonsense. Three times over length 3 stars
3/22/10 John Wow! Talk about a grouchy review. For unemotional info, get a textbook, not a film. 5 stars
11/08/09 joel try's to make penguins look like humans 1 stars
5/21/09 Luis Alvarez Really boring. I ended up making fun of of the penguins "sadness." 1 stars
1/12/09 Anonymous. i learned alot about penguins watching this. 4 stars
1/21/08 deborah mclean ditto on what brian said 5 stars
6/18/07 Jessiika I really like it and thought it was great :D Penguins are cute hahaha 4 stars
5/22/07 isha boring more exciting please 1 stars
1/12/07 David Pollastrini they're cuuuuuute! 5 stars
12/06/06 chienne I work in Mental Health. Enough said. 4 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist An overrated mushfest,I dont understand why so many people adore it. 1 stars
7/28/06 David Cohen A brilliant antidote for the Disney "nature loves everyone" mentality 5 stars
6/30/06 Gerry Irons Amazing Filming-but thought it sensationalized penguins deaths-penguins die allot we get it 2 stars
6/12/06 millersxing Jacquet brings the penguins; Freeman brings the gravitas--and that's documentary gold. 4 stars
6/07/06 Peggy Doty INTERESTING 5 stars
6/03/06 michael Not just a kids movie either 4 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar i liked it 5 stars
5/26/06 lasharee davis It was very interresting 5 stars
4/29/06 Sheila Spectacular 5 stars
3/02/06 Tanya Beautiful, yet touching, I enjoyed it. great documentary 5 stars
2/24/06 PAG Overrated. Somewhat interesting, but no more than the average Discovery Channel doc. 3 stars
2/20/06 Anne Gallick I never suspected that the live of a penguin was so miserable. This movie is a cryfest. 3 stars
12/19/05 Martin I liked the penguins. 4 stars
12/10/05 Phil M. Aficionado Fascinating in all respects, and an astounding undertaking to film it. Beautiful too. 5 stars
10/19/05 Agent Sands Your obligated to see this if you're an animal lover like me. 4 stars
10/09/05 Jenny Chen A marverous movie 5 stars
9/09/05 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne ALMOST made me forget that Morgan Freeman twice co-starred with Trashley Dudd! 5 stars
9/08/05 John great story in eth tradition of the old Disney Nature documentaries 4 stars
9/04/05 Daryl Walker This is an adorable and fascinating documentary. 4 stars
8/27/05 jenjenmarie absolutely amazing. a true documentary that anyone can enjoy 5 stars
8/27/05 DM The kind of movie where you keep asking, "How did they get that footage?" 4 stars
8/24/05 Smitty Absolutely beautiful, see it in a theater, not on video, but a real bore-ass of a movie. 2 stars
8/24/05 Tom Benton As far as documentaries go, "March of the Penguins" is wonderful. 5 stars
8/22/05 chris. nothing i didn't know before, but i'm a nerd. i'm glad this gives a large audience a look 5 stars
8/20/05 flipst0oge it was so 1 stars
8/17/05 Ilana Sprongl Wonderful film about that most amaizing creature, the penguin. 5 stars
8/14/05 Mark This was the best nature documentary i have ever seen 5 stars
7/30/05 clinger26 You've got to see this documentary 5 stars
7/25/05 rachel fascinating! fabulous! intriguing! 5 stars
7/23/05 R.W. Welch Penguins outwit world's harshest environment. Nicely filmed and written. 4 stars
7/23/05 ajay wonderful story. everyone, yes EVERYONE should see this. 5 stars
7/22/05 Kristina Williams If only humans were so dedicated....... 5 stars
7/14/05 Jan K. A long way to walk with such short legs! 5 stars
7/13/05 Bill Joyner Outstanding Movie for everyone around the World. 5 stars
7/04/05 Brian Strilesky Eventually, as word travels, nearly everyone will end up seeing this amazing film. 5 stars
7/04/05 Ken Incredible movie. 5 stars
3/23/05 Rebekah Johnson Fabulous film! I loved it! Amazing footage and narration. 5 stars
1/26/05 lex Gidley Loved It!!! If it comes to America, it won't be a hit, but it is very entertaining. 5 stars
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  24-Jun-2005 (G)
  DVD: 29-Nov-2005



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Luc Jacquet

Written by
  Luc Jacquet
  Michel Fessler

  Morgan Freeman

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