Movie Poster
March of the Penguins
Luc Jacquet
80 min.


Penguins have got it rough.

Every year they march some ungodly number of miles across the antarctic ice. They mate. They huddle together in a big group to protect themselves from the cold. Then it gets difficult. An egg is produced. First it sits on the females feet, insulated under a stomach flap from the searing cold. But the females have to return to the ocean to feed. So in a tensely orchestrated ballet, like something out of a bank heist movie, the egg is delicately transferred from the female's feet to the male's feet. If the egg is dropped the liquid insides freeze solid in a matter of seconds, killing the penguin larva and expanding, cracking open the egg. When the transfer is successful the female returns to the ocean to feed for several months. Meanwhile the males huddle together in the perpetual night watching the Aurora Australis, huddling together against the wind and not eating. That's right, the males, barely moving in the cold, eat nothing for months. Eventually the eggs hatch and the females head back, at very nearly the same time. The males cough what's left of their stomachs into the new chicks mouths and wait the last few days for the females. Each set goes back and forth to the ocean collecting food several more times. Then, after spending the whole winter in the middle of the antarctic desert, they return to the ocean to frolick and feast for a few months before starting it all over again.

That's it. That's the procedure for penguin mating. And people think they've got it rough. But in the animal world, without luxuries like Jagermeister, Red Bull and Tropix Night Club, mating can be a grueling ordeal.

March of the Penguins does a beautiful job of showing this to us. It does a considerably less great job in its explanation. Morgan Freeman does what he does best: Morgan Freeman. The narration he has been given is silly, sometimes humorously, sometimes pointlessly. "We don't know how they find their way," he says. Who does he mean? Does the scientific community not know how they find their way? Do the filmmakers not know how they find their way? Does Morgan Freeman not know? Most of the narration is pointless, as it merely restates what we can already see in the film.

Now, the film isn't fantastic. That it is several steps above the average television nature documentary is due to the big screen and the eminently photogenic nature of the penguin, it has nothing to do with being exceptionally well made. But if you like penguins, or if the thought of penguin sex titillates you (there is a very brief scene of penguin hardcore, but there are plentiful shots of penguin butt holes to keep you interested), or if, for some reason, you like Morgan Freeman, then March of the Penguins is the movie for you. If not, then it is thankful for you that the vast majority of commercially produced films do not.

Pat Jackson