Penguins of Madagascar Voices of Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights. Directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith. Rated PG. Now playing.
The no-nonsense tactical team of penguins who stole scenes in the various Madagascar animated movies get their own feature in Penguins of Madagascar, proving once again that characters who are refreshingly funny in small doses aren’t necessarily suited to carrying entire movies. In the case of the penguins, they already have their own Nickelodeon series (although this movie is unrelated to the show), and a half-hour TV show is probably about as much time as their antics warrant. The penguins’ madcap adventures fighting an evil octopus (voiced by John Malkovich) bent on revenge are occasionally cute and occasionally clever, but mostly just end up exhausting after 90 minutes. The frenzied plotting is the equivalent of a sugar rush that wears off quickly, and even hearing Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of a secret-agent wolf who can’t pronounce “penguins” isn’t enough to sustain audience engagement all the way through to the end.