- For the TV series, see The Penguins of Madagascar.
Penguins of Madagascar is a 2014 computer-animated adventure comedy film, produced by DreamWorks Animation. It stars Tom McGrath as Skipper, Chris Miller as Kowalski, Conrad Vernon as Rico, Christopher Knights as Private, Benedict Cumberbatch as Classified, and John Malkovich as Dave. In this film, the Penguins are brought into the services of the North Wind, an Arctic elite undercover inter-species task force that is dedicated to helping animals who can't help themselves. The Penguins must work with the North Wind led by Classified in order to prevent Dr. Octavius Brine from taking over the world.
The movie begins in Antarctica. Multiple penguins are walking somewhere, while baby Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico ask where they are even going, but the other penguins didn't even seem to care. And when an egg rolls by, they comment that they lose a few eggs, and it's nature. Skipper decides to go against nature, and goes after the egg which lands safely on a boat full of Leopard Seals.
Rico eats the egg and they fool the seals into releasing the harpoon and sending them onto a drifting iceberg. Now that they are safe, Rico regurgitates the egg, which hatches into Private. Private ask if the trio are his family. Kowalski tells him that he doesn't have a family and they will die, but Skipper slaps Kowalski and tells Private that they are his family now. The iceberg drifts away to wherever adventure will lead them.
The movie time-skips to where Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted left off. The penguins (except for Private) have grown tired of Marty's Afro Circus song along with King Julien's song I Like to Move It, Move It (song Played is Afro Circus-Move It) and plan to take a break from the circus by breaking into the United States gold depository to celebrate a 10 year old Private's birthday. After they infiltrate the building, Skipper asks Private what he would like most in the world. Private responds by saying he would like to be a meaningful and valued member of the team but Skipper says they got him something else, that is Cheezy Dibbles. When Private tries to get a bag the vending machine pulls him in. The penguins try to get him out but it grabs them all, bursts out of the building and is carried from a helicopter to a submarine.
After eating all of the Cheezy Dibbles, the penguins are released from the vending machine, and escape a cage using Rico's paperclip. (Private then eats the paperclip). Skipper calls him a meaningful and valued member of the team. On the control console, Private starts pressing buttons, which takes them to a human who strangely knows their names. He introduces himself as Doctor Octavius Brine, but later reveals he is really an octopus named Dave, whom none of the penguins remember. Dave explains that he used to be a star attraction at Central Park Zoo, until the penguins arrived. Dave was moved from zoo to zoo, always being upstaged by penguins. He shows a substance he created and orders his octopi to attack the penguins. The penguins manage to steal the substance and escape into the canals of Venice, going on a canoe chase to escape. However, they are cornered.
Luckily they are rescued, as a jet appears and a wolf known only as Classified tells them they are now under the protection of the North Wind. Skipper demands answers and Classified tells them that the North Wind is an elite undercover force devoted to helping animals who can't help themselves, consisting of himself, Eva, Short Fuse, and Corporal. Skipper proudly introduces his own team, but the North Wind is less than impressed, and returns to their headquarters.
Skipper is impressed with their technology. Classified wants the penguins to tell him everything they know about Dave. Skipper tells him that Dave is an octopus, and that they managed to steal the Medusa Serum, but then Dave calls the North Wind. Classified mocks Dave for the loss of his serum, but Dave reveals that he has a huge tank of it and reveals his plan to use it on all penguins everywhere. The Penguins get ready to go on the mission with Dave, but he is still convinced that they are useless, and has them tranquillised and sent to Madagascar.
The penguins wake up in a cargo plane to Madagascar. Skipper and Kowalski realise what's happening and escape the plane. After crashing to the sands below they begin to wonder where Dave will strike next. Meanwhile, Dave kidnaps more penguins. While Corporal begins to stress eat again, Eva picks up that the penguins never reached Madagascar.
The penguins arrive in Shanghai (which they mistake for Dublin) and thanks to Rico hacking up Dave's snowglobe collection, realise that Dave is going to strike Shanghai. In the zoo, Skipper has Private create the diversion, dressed as a mermaid. Dave arrives, but is captured by the Penguins even as the North Wind arrive. Dave escapes into the pipes, and captures the mermaid penguins and Private with them. He escapes to his submarine, and the Penguins hijack the North Wind's jet, while the North Wind tries to catch them. Ultimately the Penguins can't fly the jet properly, and the jet explodes, with Dave getting away. The Penguins are tied adrift from the North Wind's life-boat. It turns out the North Wind has been tracking Private from his tranquilliser dart and finds Dave's island base.
On the island hundreds of penguins are being held captive, and watch Dave's demonstration of the Medusa serum to turn them into hideous monsters. Private accidentally blows his cover, prompting Dave to use him as his first test penguin subject.
Outside, the penguins and North Wind debate whose plan to use. After Classified reminds Skipper that it's his fault Private was captured, he agrees to Dave's plan, while the Penguins cause a diversion. However, Dave was prepared for their arrival and captures first the North Wind, then the Penguins.
Dave prepares to use Private as his first Test subject. The penguins try to get him out, but can't find Rico's paperclip, and Private is disintegrated. Though the penguins are devastated, it turns out Private escaped the ray with Rico's paperclip. First he rescues the North Wind from Dave's complicated death device. Private wants to go save the other penguins, but Classified tells him that they have to go back to base and get new gear first. Private disagrees, and heads back to rescue the others.
However, he is too late, as Dave mutates all the Penguins and unleashes them on Manhattan. The exterminators arrive en masse, while Private manages to find Skipper, and talks sense into him. They find Kowalski, and then Rico, who also remember him, although Skipper admits Rico is much the same either way. The brothers set out to save the penguins, and Private believes that they can reverse the ray.
But Kowalski says that they need to replace the ray with something extremely cute. They see Private hooking himself up the ray and protest, but Private is adamant. Meanwhile, Dave is realising that his revenge hasn't made him feel any better, so he decides to start mutating everything that's cute. After seeing the penguins with his ray he has his octopi capture them. The Penguins use Dave's snow globe collection to amplify and mirror the blast, but the batteries are dead and the battle resumes.
Rico is sent to go find batteries while they take on the Octopi. Rico finds batteries but is distracted by Cheezy Dibbles. Luckily the North Wind show up in an improvised Ice Cream van which explodes upon impact on Dave's ship. The North Wind walk away from the explosions before being sucked up by an exterminators vehicle. Dave fires himself at the cannon and throws Kowalski at the exterminator's vehicle. Dave tells Skipper he's lost but Skipper points out that Rico is tossing him double AAs. Skipper puts the batteries inside but Dave tosses him and Rico at the exterminators vehicle before going after Private. Private uses his butt hand to punch Dave away. Skipper uses a dibble to aim for the button. He succeeds before being sucked in, activating the ray and curing the penguins.
However, Private is overwhelmed by a blast and mutates rapidly before a chrysalis forms around him. Corporal manages to get him out and suddenly it hatches turning Private magenta purple with spots and antlers. The group shares a hug. Skipper tells Private that he is a meaningful and valued member of the team, and everybody cheers for him, and then it turns out that Dave who had taken most of the effect on the ray has shrunk and somehow became trapped in a snow globe. The penguins give him to a little girl who shakes him up and down.
Classified apologizes for his speciesist attitude towards the penguins and wants to make it up. After a romantic moment between Kowalski and Eva, Private suggest jetpacks which everyone agrees on. The penguins are seen flying back to the circus, and it is implied they are now members of the North Wind.
In the epilogue Private asks Skipper if he will turn him normal and Skipper agrees, this time using Mort as the source of cuteness. They turn Private normal again. Mort doesn't seem to suffer any changes, that is until he eats King Julien in one gulp.
- Tom McGrath as Skipper, the leader of the penguins
- Chris Miller as Kowalski, the brains of the penguins
- Conrad Vernon as Rico, the loose cannon of the penguins
- Christopher Knights as Private, the rookie of the penguins
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Classified, a wolf and leader of the North Wind.
- John Malkovich as Dave, a disgruntled octopus who poses as the human Dr. Octavius Brine.
- Ken Jeong as Short Fuse, an explosive and demolitions expert, seal, and a member of the North Wind.
- Annet Mahendru as Eva, a snowy owl and the North Wind's intelligence analyst.
- Peter Stormare as Corporal, a Norwegian polar bear and a member of the North Wind.
- Danny Jacobs as King Julien
- Andy Richter as Mort
Penguins of Madagascar grossed $83.4 million in North America and $290.2 million in foreign countries for a worldwide total of $373.6 million. The film's production budget was $132 million, which, according to the DreamWorks Animation's president Ann Dally, excluded "incentive-based compensation." By the end of 2014, the studio had to take a $57.1 million write-down, primarily related to the performance of Penguins of Madagascar and another DreamWorks Animation's film Mr. Peabody & Sherman.
Penguins of Madagascar was released on November 26, 2014 in North America and Canada across 3,764 theatres. It earned $6.25 million on its opening day and $3.95 million the next day on Thanksgiving Day. It earned $10.5 million on Black Friday. The film underperformed during its opening weekend earning $25.4 million and debuting at #2 at the box office behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, for which 3D accounted for 24% of its opening-weekend gross. The opening-weekend audience was evenly split among those under and over the age of 25, with 58% and female accounted 51%. In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave Penguins of Madagascar an average grade of A- on an A+ to F scale.
The film was released in China on November 14, two weeks ahead of its North American debut, and earned $11.3 million from 3,500 screens, debuting at number two at the Chinese box office behind Interstellar ($42 million). In its opening weekend, the film earned $36.5 million from 47 markets. Overall, the top openings were in Russia ($8.2 million), Korea ($6 million), Italy ($4.63 million), Germany ($4.2 million), and Australia ($3.68 million). The film's opening in Germany was the second-highest for an animated film in 2014, behind How to Train Your Dragon 2.
The film has a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 110 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's consensus was "Penguins of Madagascar is fast and brightly colored enough to entertain small children, but too frantically silly to offer real filmgoing fun for the whole family." On Metacritic, the film achieved a score of 53 out of 100 based on reviews from 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A-.
Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, saying "While there are plenty of madcap antics to fill a feature, all that manic energy ultimately proves to be more exhausting than exhilarating." Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Granted, it's no classic, but a sassy script and good-natured voice work from Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich should keep kids and grownups entertained over the holidays." Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a B, saying "Frenetic and frequently funny, Penguins Of Madagascar represents the DreamWorks Animation franchise style—which boils down to self-aware, but naïve, talking animals who learn kid-friendly life lessons—at its most palatable." Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, saying "The lack of originality is offset by sheer silliness, including Classified and Skipper's Abbott and Costello-style argument over whether there's a long I in 'diversion.' The word fits the movie."
Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Once again the Madagascar team have come up with a winner – a nice way to kick off the Thanksgiving and holiday filmgoing experience for the whole family." Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film one out of four stars, saying "Penguins of Madagascar is a lazy, noisy ADHD-addled collection of animated clichés guaranteed to give anyone older than 5 a headache, even if you don't see it in optional 3-D." Jeff Labrecque of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, saying "Penguins of Madagascar aims primarily for the kiddies, racing from one frenetic action sequence to another like some haywire Walter Lantz cartoon."