Projections - Movie Reviews

March of the Penguins

Rated: G
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: June 24, 2005 Released by: Warner Independent

If you were amazed by Winged Migration, penguins are quite a sight from the camera positioned on them by French director Luc Jacquet.

March of the Penguins is a documentary, maybe one that seems a little extended given its short running time, is really a "story about love." Morgan Freeman is just right as the third-person narrator who tells the viewer, "the long march has begun, just as it has for thousands of years." Some penguins don't survive the harsh journey as he almost sounds lost in thought in reading the words provided by Jordan Roberts.

The setting is the austere Antartic Continent with temperatures near 80 below zero and wind chill factors severely below that - given speeds well above 100 mph.

This captivating, sentimental story looks closely at the emperor penguins waddling and sliding on their stomachs about 70 miles from the coast to their breeding ground where there is no food for them. They will have to rear their offspring through a grueling winter starting in March.

Jacquet deftly shows courtship rituals of the males and females, the latter in greater numbers. The mating process reveals something of an annual monogamy. How these cold weather birds go through the ritual is an eye-opener and heartwarming to boot.

What's interesting is the mothers allowing the males to sit on the eggs while they walk in different directions to the ocean for nearly a week to bring back fish. The fathers carefully holds it on their feet and using their stomachs (a pouch) for the necessary warmth. This has to be done with quick dexterity given the fact that the egg could be cracked or soon frozen if exposed.

It must be said that the original version of the documentary in its native Gallic land translated as "The Emperor's Journey". At least a couple of these penguins were voiced in first person for anthropomorphic effect, perhaps adding a delightful animated flavor, like the paranoid, deadpan humorous ones in Madagascar.

Still, this Americanized intimate account lets the madness unfold for these frozen friends developing important partnerships filmed by Jacquet and his filmmakers for over a year often during blizzard conditions. And it's hard not to feel more than sympathy for these cute intrepid travelers who know how to cuddle when it counts.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
March of the Penguins B+     B+     A- B+

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