“Penguins”

 

            It's a great nature story, even without the sound track embellishments.  Every Spring, literally millions of Adelie penguins converge on the place of their birth, on a rocky promontory by the ocean.

The males all arrive first, and stake out their spot.  They hunt rocks to make a nest, which they gather one at a time in their long beaks.  Though graceful and powerful swimmers, they waddle on land, their flippers outstretched for balance, walking on webbed feet that slide on the ice, which means they slip and fall a lot.  But that's OK, they can also slide on their bellies, using their flippers for traction.  The veteran males defend their chosen spot like an old church deacon sitting in “his” pew.  They're also known to poach rocks from other nests when somebody's back is turned.

            At last, it's time for the females to arrive, and they, also, come from the sea, where they've spent the winter, but now they return for the annual ritual.  They find their mate and soon she's sitting on the eggs so they won't freeze.  Once they hatch, both the Mom and the Dad are involved in the feeding.  They take turns jumping in the water and feeding on fish and plankton, and the chicks eat the parents' regurgitations.  Since they only have about a month to fatten up and mature, the parents are constantly busy with continual feeding.  Then, when the brief summer comes to a close, the chicks molt, are introduced to the water, and everybody swims away.  To meet once more in the Spring, same time, next year.

            We follow one particular Adelie penguin, named “Steve,” who appears to be somewhat of a loner, and makes a habit of being late to the party, but he manages his duties instinctively.  The narration by Ed Helms alternates between straight explanation, and a folksy kind of  anthropomorphizing, but it's well-co-ordinated with the images on the screen.  Some purists might also quibble with choice of background music, but really, it's about the penguins, and their remarkable annual pilgrimages.  Yes, there are dangers, from predators like killer whales and leopard seals, and even birds, but this Disney movie doesn't dwell on the violence, just reminds us that it's there in Nature.

            This is definitely one the whole family can enjoy together.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association