- 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.
The movie begins in Antarctica, many years before the event of the first film. Multiple penguins are walking somewhere. Young penguins Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico ask where they are even going, but the other penguins didn't even seem to care. When an egg rolls by, they comment that they lose a few eggs, and it's nature. Skipper decides to go against nature, and chases the egg which lands safely on a boat full of Seals. Rico devours the egg and they fool the seals into releasing the harpoon and sending them onto a drifting iceberg. Rico then regurgitates the egg, which hatches into Private. Private ask if the trio are his family. Kowalski informs him that he doesn't have a family and they will die. An angry Skipper slaps Kowalski and tells Private that they are his family now. The iceberg drifts away, setting off the events in the later films.
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 Private's 10th 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, though Skipper declines and offers him Cheezy Dibbles, a snack. 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, though Private eats the paper clip in the process. 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 and quickly reveals himself as an octopus named "Dave", of which none of the team remembers. Dave explains that he used to be a star attraction at Central Park Zoo until the penguins arrived. Since then, he was moved from zoo to zoo, always being upstaged by penguins. This contributed to his significant animosity against them. He revealed the Medusa Serum, a chemical that would mutate any organism into hideous monsters, and orders his octopi henchmen to attack the penguins. The penguins manage to steal a canister and escape into the canals of Venice, going on a canoe chase to escape.
As they were cornered, a jet appears. A wolf tells them they are now under the protection of the North Wind task force. Skipper demands answers and he 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, although the North Wind is not interested and brings them 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 prepare to fight Dave, but Classified is still convinced that they are useless, and has them tranquillized and sent to Madagascar.
The penguins wake up in a cargo plane to Madagascar. Skipper and Kowalski realize what's happening and escape the plane with Rico and Private. 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 initially mistake for Dublin) and thanks to Rico coughing up Dave's snowglobe collection, realize that Dave is going to strike there. In the aquarium, 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 as well as Private. He escapes to his submarine, and the Penguins hijack the North Wind's jet, while the North Wind tries to catch them. Ultimately the jet crashes, 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 dart and found 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 the wolf's plan, while the Penguins cause a diversion. However, Dave was prepared for their arrival and captures them all.
Dave uses Private as his first Test subject. The rest of the team attempts to save him, but they cannot find the paper clip, and Private is presumably killed, devastating them. Unbeknownst to all others, Private has escaped with minor scalding after regurgitating the paper clip and picking the lock moments before the laser could strike him. 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 ends up alone and heads off for his friends.
Dave mutates all the Penguins and unleashes them on Manhattan. The exterminators arrive en masse, using utility vehicles to remove them from the scene while Private manages to find a mutated Skipper and restores his sanity. They also retrieve Kowalski and Rico and plan on reversing the serum's effects.
Kowalski proposes that they need to replace the ray with something extremely cute, which they are in lack of. Private volunteers and despite protests from the other three, they were forced to proceed anyway. Meanwhile, Dave realized 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, while Penguins mount Dave's snow globes to amplify the laser. They attempt to trigger the laser remotely, but the RC terminal is not powered, and the battle resumes.
Rico is sent to go find batteries while they take on the Octopi. He does so, but is distracted by Cheezy Dibbles. The North Wind show up in an improvised Ice Cream van which explodes upon impact on Dave's ship, but were unintentionally captured by the exterminators' vehicles. Dave fires himself at the cannon and throws Kowalski into one of the vehicles. Dave attacks Skipper and Rico, throwing them into the vehicles too, though not before Skipper loads the batteries and fires a dibble at the button. Private attacks Dave with his mutated hand. The laser triggers, restoring all the penguins to their normal states.
Private is overwhelmed by a blast and mutates rapidly before a chrysalis forms around him. Corporal breaks him out of the weapon, and it hatches, revealing Private alive and well, though he has gained a magenta purple hue, as well as spots and antlers. The group shares a hug. Impressed by his actions, Skipper tells Private that he is a meaningful and valued member of the team, and everybody cheers for him. Dave appears again, but the laser blast has shrunken him significantly and he is trapped inside a N.Y. themed snow globe. The penguins give the item to a little girl, and Dave is left at the mercy of the child's violent shaking.
Shocked by the mission, Classified apologizes for his attitude towards the penguins and wants to compensate them. After a romantic moment between Kowalski and Eva, Private suggest jetpacks which everyone agrees on. The penguins are seen flying back to the circus.
In the epilogue, Private asks Skipper if he will turn him normal and Skipper agrees. They turn Private normal again with Mort and walk away. Mort then 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 quartermaster of the penguins
- Christopher Knights as Private, the recruit 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."