Penguins Parent Guide
Documentary style footage plus comical scipt equals an educational film that will have audiences laughing out loud.
Parent Movie Review
Penguins have long been a surefire winner at the box office. Films about these flightless seabirds range from the documentary March of the Penguins to the animated musical comedies like Happy Feet. Disneynature’s Penguins has found the sweet spot between the two. In this kid-friendly and parent-pleasing release, the directors have married documentary-style footage with a comical script to make an educational film that will have audiences laughing out loud.
The story focuses on Steve, a hapless but never hopeless Adélie penguin. Steve is running behind on the annual spring trek from Antarctica’s ice shelf to the rock-strewn mountains where his species mate and raise their chicks. Competition is fierce for the best nesting sites, although what makes any one site more desirable than another is far from obvious to a mere human viewer. Steve struggles to build a nest, getting struck by one penguin and having his carefully gathered rocks stolen by another. But eventually, his nest is complete and he manages to woo and win Adeline, who subsequently lays two eggs. The two penguins then face the arduous task of raising babies in the harshest environment on earth – and that’s just the summer.
Conservationists may disagree on the value of anthropomorphizing (giving human characteristics to animals) penguins. But there is no doubt that the script is what makes this movie stand out in the field of penguin documentaries. The filmmakers have taken amazing footage of penguins and then written an entertaining narrative around it. Ed Helms does a masterful job of both narrating the story and vocalizing Steve’s thoughts and dialogue. In Helms’ hands, Steve, constantly stumbling, slipping, falling behind, and getting lost, comes across as a loveable schmuck. Once the baby penguins hatch, he evolves into the stereotypical TV sitcom Dad – bemused, confused, and trying his inept best. There’s not much originality to the personality the writers have given Steve, but it works so well with the footage that it would be churlish to complain.
And there was precious little complaining in the screening I attended. The audience was laughing out loud at Steve’s pratfalls, and although America’s Funniest Home Videos has never been my idea of comedy, I even found myself chuckling at some of Steve’s more ridiculous tumbles. But what really got me laughing was the soundtrack. I’m not going to throw in any spoilers here, but the soundtrack for Steve and Adeline’s mating dance actually made me snort out loud.
Obviously, this film has very little for parents to worry about. There are some scenes of peril where South Polar Skua birds hunt baby penguins and where killer whales prowl the channels of open water seeking prey. And there is a terrifying moment where a leopard seal hunts Steve’s chicks. There is also a gross-out moment where one of the chicks vomits a full color splattery mess. But the G rating for this movie is well deserved and only the most sensitive of children will find anything upsetting here.
For everyone else, Penguins is a remarkable tribute to creatures who perform impossible feats in a climate so cold it scares me – and I have survived Canadian winters. Learning that a single journey to get food for the chicks could involve a 100 mile round trip for the parent was mind boggling. And then finding out that the chicks need enough food to quadruple their weight in a month puts the parents’ near impossible task in perspective. The other group performing an astounding feat is the camera crew. While watching the dazzling footage on the rocks, the ice shelf and underwater, I kept reminding myself that there were humans taking footage in this inhospitable climate and terrain. I am just grateful that their technical wizardry didn’t go so far as to project the nesting ground aroma into the theater. While I enjoy watching these waddling wonders, I have no desire to smell them.Directed by Alastair Fothergill, and Jeff Wilson. Starring Ed Helms. Running time: 76 minutes. Theatrical release April 17, 2019. Updated April 20, 2020
Watch the trailer for Penguins
Rating & Content Info
Why is Penguins rated G? Penguins is rated G by the MPAA
Violence: Penguins slip and fall on a regular basis. Penguins hit each other with flippers and bite each other with their beaks. Other birds hunt penguins and fly off with baby chicks. Killer whales are shown but don’t attack. Seals capture and eat penguins, but there are no gory visuals.
Sexual Content: None.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None
Page last updated April 20, 2020
Penguins Parents' Guide
Penguins are suffering the effects of global climate change as warming temperatures lead to retreating sea ice. What can you do to help protect these fascinating creatures? The following organizations have some suggestions:
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Toddlers and preschoolers will appreciate the bright illustrations and simple rhymes in If You Were a Penguin by Florence and Wendell Minor.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In 365 Penguins by Jen-Luc Fromental and Joelle Jolivet, a family has a penguin delivered to their doorstep every day for a year.
Elementary school aged readers will get a kick out of Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater. This Newbery Honor Book relates the adventures of house painter Mr. Popper and his high-spirited penguins.
For a factual look at penguins, kids can turn to Wayne Lynch’s Penguins of the World. This book reaps the benefit of Lynch’s 18 years of travel to Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, and remote islands. The book features detailed text, which might be too difficult for some children, but the glorious photos more than compensate and will charm any penguin lover.
Related home video titles:
March of the Penguins combined Morgan Freeman’s authoritative narration with amazing documentary footage to tell the story of Emperor penguins in Antarctica.
Penguins of Madagascar is another animated comedy featuring penguins.