OK, in our heart of hearts we know that Antarctic penguins don’t really apologize to their fellow black-and-white neighbors as they jostle through a crowd.
And they don’t actually worry over which cute penguin girl might swoon to their love song warble and dig the cut of their jib. We know that an animal’s world is really pretty shallow and harsh, and driven by instinct more than anything else. But it sure is fun to pretend.
And Disney brings those longed-for, anthropomorphized pretendings to life so, so well.
Penguins, the latest Disneynature documentary, is the coming-of-age romance tale, or, uh, family adventure of one Steve the Adélie penguin. He starts out as a straggling, behind-the-crowd bumble-body in a wave of millions of male penguins who are trekking back to a stony patch of dry land to build a small nest of stones and raise a family.
Of course, first, young Steve must attract a mate. Then it’s on to the egg-laying, the food-gathering, the chick-raising, and finally starting the whole cycle over again.
Narrated with light and bouncy energy by Ed Helms, the story shifts back and forth between Steve’s human-like inner conversations and Helms’ descriptions of the real-world, year-long cycle of life that Steve and his fellow penguins make their way through.
The 76-minute adventure never seems to drag or bog down in the slightest. It’s fun, panoramically beautiful and accompanied by a creatively structured soundtrack that even features artists such as REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake. (You read that right.)
Oh, and when that score turns more ominous, which always happens when you’re dealing with the potentially deadly ways of nature, things never get too dark for our beloved Steve and his fam. Sure, there are dangerous killer whales, egg-stealing seabirds, leopard seals and even deadly Katabatic winds to deal with in this deeply frozen land. But these moments aren’t anything that most kids couldn’t endure with a comforting parental or grandparental arm around them.
The most intense moment involves one of Steve’s now grown-up chicks being snagged by a sharp-toothed seal. (But here’s a secret: The wily penguin gets away. Shhhhhh!) Other than that, the only potential down-ruffling content here consists of two exclamations of “oh my gosh” and a “geez,” as well as a few standard-issue regurgitation and penguin-pooh giggles. (Hey, they are animals after all. I mean the penguins, not your kids.)
On the upside, you get a wonderful family film for Earth Day, one that teaches us about a world we may not know about and one that stokes our love for animals while encouraging the warm cuddles of the family around us.
Another Disneynature win, win.
For more ideas on how to experience life together as a family, check out these Focus on the Family resources:
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.