Friday, December 10, 2010

March of the Penguins (2005): A Good Bird Flick

Admittedly, I don’t go out to many movies.  I’m always behind in reviewing new releases and see a movie at the theatre about as often as I see the dentist.  I reason to myself that if I’m going to endure exaggerated emotional prodding, I would like to be prepared for it.  Besides, Meg Ryan and Robin Williams will still be acting, even if I don’t happen to see their movies.  I do feel like I owe my few readers a positive review now and then and to do that I can’t always pick the most current movie.  I liked Downfall when I saw it in a theatre a year and a half ago, but a realistic portrayal of Berlin in April of 1945 does not inspire a great deal of mirth.  The Aristocrats, which I saw while visiting Maine, was worth seeing for a sequence involving Billy the Mime.  I saw Tales of Narnia when going out to a movie before Christmas and found it dull.  Cinderella Man, which I saw in a theatre sometime during the past year, had some good acting by Russell Crowe, but Ron Howard needlessly turned fighter Max Baer into a villain and required Renee Zellwigger to speak with a fake New York accent.
I did enjoy seeing Luc Jacquet’s March of the Penguins.  If you’re a bird hater you at least had an honest reason for staying away, and if you hate children, it’s probably a good thing if you didn’t see it in a theatre.  But it is an impressive movie to see on the screen.  The movie shows adult Emperor Penguins walking seventy miles across the Antarctic ice to their mating grounds, walking another seventy miles to retrieve food for their families and returning the seventy miles with the food in their stomach all ready to be regurgitated, the sharing of these duties by both parents while protecting the newly laid egg, the huddling together during 100 below temperatures, the avoidance of predators, etc.  Many of the penguins don’t make it, sometimes (having lost an egg of her own) a penguin robs another egg, or sometimes a seal eats the penguins.  Seals are not portrayed sympathetically in the movie because they do eat penguins, but I’m not exactly sure what else a five hundred pound seal is supposed to do.  Outside of this minor complaint, the movie makes you appreciate the hardship and triumph of the strangest looking birds in the world.
What bothers me about a movie like March of the Penguin is that it is superior to most other films that star people.  Morgan Freeman’s narration does not add drama to March of the Penguins because watching the penguins is enough.  There’s magnificence here that reminds us of what most blockbuster movies lack.  We don’t need more sequels, we don’t need movies based on television series (especially when the television show actually turns out to be superior to the movie), we don’t need more “rich boy finds poor girl and marries her” romances, and we don’t need to see the directors attempt to express their cleverness.  We need intelligence, real beauty and good humor.  Something that this movie in its own limited way delivers.
 August 6, 2006  
© Robert S. Miller     2006

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