Penguins is a DisneyNature documentary directed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson. The documentary is narrated by Ed Helms.
Penguins follows a penguin named Steve, who must endure a long trek across Antarctica, so that he may be safe, find a female penguin to mate with, construct a nest, and raise his young so they may become independent as well. But along the way, there are plenty of threats, including unforgiving weather and fearsome predators from the land, sea, and air alike.
It’s been a decade since DisneyNature documentaries began, and we’ve gotten several superb docs for all ages with fantastically shot footage showing the wildlife of all corners of the globe. Penguins takes us to the Antarctic, following the life of a penguin through a harsh and unforgiving landscape. The doc does a superb job capturing the exotic yet dangerous Antarctica scenery, presenting some amazing footage throughout its brief-but-effective 75-minute duration, with its only real weaknesses being in its overuse of humorous narration and popular music.
As far as the filmed footage goes, you couldn’t ask for much better than this. It’s clear the crew is experienced in their duties, and they have access to state-of-the-art equipment; some brief footage during the end credits does show the filming process and some of the lengths they went to in order to achieve the shots they did. What’s truly amazing is how, during the duration of the proper documentary, their shooting in no way seems to interfere with or impede the animals themselves. To achieve this while capturing the creatures in the wild is no small task. Not to mention these penguins are adorable and just plain fun to watch. At a mere 75 minutes, the documentary breezes by, yet doesn’t feel shortchanged or rushed.
The only real issues I had with Penguins were its overuse of humorous narration and popular music. Ed Helms serves as narrator, but can’t quite seem to decide if he wants to pay it straight or be a funny man. The often juvenile jokes are giggle-worthy at times, but much of this undermines the visual experience unfolding on screen. Less narration and fewer corny jokes would have made for a more perfect experience. Likewise, the movie has beautifully composed music playing throughout its duration, but at times, can’t fight the urge to throw in some popular music. I love REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake, don’t get me wrong, but popular music is out of place in a nature documentary such as this. Much like the narration, these elements undermine the experience and distract more than they help.
Penguins, overall, is a superb documentary despite a few minor flaws which are in no way the fault of the film crew, who outdo themselves throughout. Definitely recommended viewing.
Rating: Three stars out of four.
DISCLAIMER: all images in this review are the property of their respective holders, including DisneyNature and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. All rights reserved. For promotional use only.