March Of The Penguins

March Of The Penguins

***1/2

Reviewed by: The Exile

When it comes to nature documentaries, audiences fall roughly into two groups: those who like to see their animals as fascinating, foreign creatures and those who prefer to think of them as humans with paws (or, in the case of the Emperor penguin, flippers). My own preference - at the risk of being thought less sentimental than a postcoital black widow - is for the former. March Of The Penguins, on the other hand, panders remorselessly to the latter.

Earning higher per-screen averages than War Of The Worlds, or Fantastic Four, Luc Jacquet's film has been waddling across the United States leaving audiences dewy-eyed and grateful to be higher up the food chain. "In the harshest place on earth, love finds a way," coos Morgan Freeman, reminding us that, for some species, procreation requires more than a couple of beers and a DVD of When Harry Met Sally.

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Awestruck, we watch as hundreds of penguins erupt from the ocean and stomp across 70 miles of Antarctic glacier to inland breeding grounds, where they quickly choose a mate and get it on before winter freezes their motivation. Two months later, eggs are laid and immediately passed to daddy for incubation in a cunning flap of skin below his abdomen. Mommy then bids farewell (cue quivering strings) and heads back to the ocean for food, while her partner hunkers down and wishes he'd been born female. By the time the babies arrive, fuzzy as hell and ready for their close-ups, you'll feel as elated as if you'd hatched them yourself.

Blissfully photographed in glorious, wide screen tableaux, March Of The Penguins is a natural high, packing as many oohs and aahs per frame as anything you might find in the Animal Planet archive. Though the original French cut anthropomorphized its subjects to the extreme, with first-person dialogue and jaunty songs, the cartoon factor was replaced in the American release with Freeman's soothing narration and a more dignified score.

Even so, the finished product is still determined to ascribe human emotions to avian activities, as penguins swoon adoringly against each other and brave frigid winds like a huddle of stoic headwaiters. These admirable birds work harder to melt our hearts than a bucket of puppies from the pound, but if they don't convince us to give up our damned SUVs and stop liquefying their habitat, then all that cuteness has been for naught.

Reviewed on: 03 Dec 2005
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March Of The Penguins packshot
A year in the life of the emperor penguins of Antartica.
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Read more March Of The Penguins reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: Luc Jacquet

Writer: Luc Jacquet, Michel Fessler

Starring: Emperor penguins, voice of Morgan Freeman

Year: 2005

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: France

Festivals:

Sundance 2005

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