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9 reviews, 49 user ratings

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March of the Penguins
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by David Cornelius

4 stars

I dare you to find a more adorable animal on this planet than the penguin. Otters? Baby seals? Manatees? Sure, they’re cute enough, I suppose, but nothing can rival the power of a penguin. In fact, the only thing cuter than a penguin is a baby penguin. Even the coldest and meanest will melt at the sight of a baby penguin.

Which brings me to “March of the Penguins,” a remarkable documentary from filmmaker Luc Jacquet. Jacquet and his crew spent the better part of a year in Antarctica - although, considering the cold and the wind and the snow, is there really a “better part” of any year spent in Antarctica? The continent is perhaps the most beautiful place on our globe, but it is also perhaps the most unwelcoming.

Which makes Jacquet’s work all the more impressive. Despite the brutal conditions, his crew managed to bring in footage of the most spectacular sort. This is beautiful stuff here, a wonder for the eyes.

Jacquet’s year down south is spent watching the ritual of the Emperor penguin, which goes something like this: leaving their home near the water at summer’s end, the penguins waddle their way inland, some traveling over seventy miles and taking a full week, non-stop, until they arrive at their mating ground. This ground has served as the winter home for these birds for thousands of years, and every year, it’s the same ceremony. Days are spent finding a mate. (“We don’t know what they’re looking for,” the narration reveals. “We only know they’re looking.”) Once a mate is found, work begins on producing an egg.

The birth of an egg leads to a beautiful dance of sorts, in which the female passes off the egg to the male, who must keep the egg sheltered from the cold, balanced delicately on his feet, hidden under a flap of nice, warm belly. The mothers then head back to the water to load up on food, while the men stay behind as the egg hatches.

There’s more to the story, of course - much, much more - and it’s all hauntingly beautiful. There’s a gentleness to these creatures that simply stuns (to see two penguins cuddling is to be enveloped by warmth and wonder), and while there is so much we may never know about them - how do they pick their mates each year? how do they manage to keep finding each other after months apart? - there is so much to them that feels so familiar. Maybe these birds aren’t in love, maybe their signs of affection are merely part of some unexplained ritual. But to the viewer, it sure looks otherwise. It seems as if these mates are genuinely in love, and the connection we see between two mates is stunning.

This being a nature documentary, Jacquet does not shy away from the sadder aspects of reality - yet he does his best not to dwell on them, either. The filmmaker seems to be working with a family audience in mind, as the narration repeatedly uses the terms “vanishes” and “disappears” as a euphemism for “dies.” There are times when the film focuses directly with death - one scene shows a penguin becoming the victim of a hungry seal, another shows lifeless, frozen babies following a nasty storm - but it is all done with a delicate touch. Too delicate, some may argue, but it would seem that showing too much death would go against the movie’s delicate, peaceful nature.

Speaking of the narration, the film offers up several choices, different narrators chosen for different nations. For the film’s English-speaking viewers, there’s none less than Morgan Freeman. It’s the right choice, of course. Freeman’s elegant voice is the perfect match for this awe-inspiring imagery, his soothing tones a lovely compliment to the serene imagery. (I am told that the French soundtrack includes voice-overs of the penguins “talking,” a bizarre choice which, for once, makes me happy to not bother with the original language track.)

The voice, the sights, and the events all gel to create a remarkable movie experience. While there is nothing particularly extraordinary about Jacquet’s film (in the end, it all feels like nothing more than a really good Imax movie you’d catch at your neighborhood museum, or maybe a solid Discovery Channel special), it is without question a true stunner. This is a simple work expertly made, starring the cutest creatures on Earth.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11299&reviewer=392
originally posted: 07/22/05 16:57:46
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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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