The movie opens on a March of the Penguins-like origin story for this band of ragamuffins, and a documentary film crew (voiced brilliantly, in part, by Werner Herzog!) show them to be, let’s say, more bumbling than brilliant. This proves true once they’re grown as well – they escape the circus from the last movie but land themselves right in the hands of a nemesis they didn’t know they had (John Malkovich), an old zoo-mate from their Central Park days. This nemesis, also known as “Dave”, has it out for penguins in general and these ones in particular – their cuteness took the crowds away from his own zoo exhibit and he’s been harbouring a grudge ever since. The penguins seem to be in a little over their heads but an agency called the North Wind (a wolf voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, a neurotic polar bear, a sarcastic seal, and a sexy snow owl) swoops in to take over the rescue operation.
The traditional animation isn’t ground-breaking and the story’s not exactly scintillating, but I can see how this will work for kids. It’s full of fun visuals, simple puns, and wacky sight gags -“Melons, dead ahead!” It’s very hard not to have fun watching this movie, and if you’re a littlun all sugared up on snack bar, all the better – the pace is frenetic! I’m not sure it has much to keep adults captivated – too silly and earnest – but you should at least be able to sit through it with the kids. And if you’re missing King Julien, then just sit through about half a Pitbull song (if there’s a better musical representation for this empty-but-flashy animation, I don’t know it) during the credits, and whoop, there he is.