We were invited to Disneynature’s Penguins to review it. The film focuses on Adélie penguins in Antarctica, in particular one penguin that was given the name of Steve for story purposes – along with his eventual partner Adeline. This is the eighth theatrical release for Disneynature and the film clocks in at just 76 minutes long. For each ticket sold to see Disneynature’s Penguins during opening week (April 17, 2019 –April 23, 2019) in the U.S. and Canada, Disneynature will contribute $.20 per ticket to the Wildlife Conservation Network through the Disney Conservation Fund to support penguin conservation. The movie is narrated by actor Ed Helms.
Disney calls Penguins a “coming of age” story that is based around Steve joining hundreds of thousands of other males in their pursuit to find a mate and have a family. Filmmakers spent 3 years capturing the footage for the film in conditions where temperatures could drop to -40. The film itself is beautiful, the penguins adorable and it is a mostly sanitized version of what Adélie penguins go through to survive. Steve and Adeline have babies and not only is raising them a lot of work (making sure the chicks are fed and protected in extremely harsh weather), but there are a lot of obstacles for those chicks to become adults themselves. For example, birds called skuas eat not only penguin eggs but they eat baby penguins. We do see them harassing the chicks but never see anything that should bother most sensitive viewers too much. And the same with leopard seals, we watch as the chicks follow their parents across water where ice has broken up. Leopard seals can catch 40-50 chicks per day, and we see some chicks playing dead to try to make the leopard seals less interested in them. The chicks instinctively knew to do that, and sometimes were able to live because of that instict.
I had conflicting thought on Penguins after seeing it. I found the narration by Helms a little irritating, mostly when he talks like he is Steve and there is a little too much discussion about barf. That said, a lot of the audience laughed at his narration. Another part that I found cringeworthy was some of the music choices for scenes. For example, when Steve meets Adeline for the first time, the REO Speedwagon song “Can’t Fight this Feeling” is played. I love the song, I grew up in the 80s but rolled my eyes a bit at this. On the other hand, just like the 2005 film March of the Penguins, the cinemetography is gorgeous and each film shows how really hard it is to be a penguin.
My favorite part of the film was actually the end credits. Stay during them and watch the cinematographers battling the difficult conditions to bring the footage to life. The filmmakers worked above ground and under water in polar conditions. Penguins are shown around the filmmakers. Apparently the penguins were fine with being filmed, but it took more work to find seals that would be the same way.
This is a solid family film that kids should enjoy.
Mousesteps grade: B