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March of the Penguins

Documentary;  Narrated by: Morgan Freeman;  Released: 2005

This March of the Penguins review written by Mark Jeantheau, Grinning Planet.

DVD cover for March of the Penguins March of the Penguins opens with stunning distance shots of seemingly impossible icescape formations in the Antarctic wilderness. No creature could live in such a beautiful but utterly barren place. Or so one would think.

Emperor penguins do live here, along with some other hardy species. Though they spend most of their time in and near the water, once a year the members of this penguin species troop 70 miles over the ice to their frozen inland breeding area. They spend months there in the process of courtship and breeding, egg tending, and chick rearing, mostly without food, braving wind and sub-zero temperatures all the while—an insane logistical plan for ensuring the continuation of their species.

Insane or not, it does work, and the penguin chicks finally make their appearance. In March of the Penguins, viewers will find the requisite number of "cute shots" of fluffy chicks and youngsters doing the adorable things that the young of any species do. Not all of the new penguin chicks survive, of course—cold, hunger, and predators all take their toll. Older adult penguins also sometimes fall to the unrelenting cold and the stress of going so long without food. Back at the feeding grounds, predators like leopard seals can take down even the 4-foot-tall adults. The film does not overplay such life-and-death realities, but shows enough of them to remind us that no matter how elegant and fascinating nature is, its fundamental laws are harsh.

Emperor penguins' stature and shape, combined with their tuxedoed appearance and overweight waddling, somehow make them seem slightly human. The courtship of Emperor penguins is elegant and tender, never violent or vulgar. At times a paired male and female even seem to be competing to see which one can look more regal and worthy of the species' name.


As amazing as the initial landscape shots are, some of the underwater shots are equally breathtaking, with penguins swimming acrobatically through the shadowy waters, leaving us amazed that the shots are not just clips djinned up in a Hollywood special-effects studio.

Throughout the film, viewers will find themselves emitting "ah's!" of surprise and fascination, nods of appreciation, and occasional laughter at the penguins' antics. The filmmakers here deserve much credit, not only for their skill at combining the footage and Morgan Freeman's narration into a very enjoyable movie, but at having had the physical stamina to take so much great footage in such a forbidding place.

If you need a break from Hollywood's standard farcical fare and from informative but dreary apocalyptic documentaries, March of the Penguins is just the thing, for adults and kids alike.

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Liner notes for March of the Penguins:
Tagline: In the harshest place on Earth, love finds a way.   Categories: Nature film, penguin movie.   Runtime: 80 minutes


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