Last Thursday I headed down to Fox to check out over 30 minutes of footage from The Penguins of Madagascar and about 15 minutes of footage from Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. Both films are due for release later this year so it was a chance to catch up on what to expect from the more family friendly side of Fox’s upcoming slate. The seems quite confident when it comes to The Penguins of Madagascar given the amount of stuff we were shown, and they’re not wrong to feel that way. The film opens in 3D on November 26th, and features the voices of Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Chris Knights, John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, Annett Mahendru, and Peter Stormare.
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb was directed by Shawn Levy and stars Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Dan Stevens, Ben Kingsley, Rebel Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Rami Malek, Steve Coogan, Owen Wilson, Patrick Gallagher, Mizuo Peck, Bill Cobbs, Dick Van Dyke, and Mickey Rooney. That film hits theaters on December 19th. Hit the jump for a brief breakdown of the footage shown from both movies.
Having not seen the Madagascar films, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw of the spinoff, The Penguins of Madagascar. On the way out of the screening a friend remarked that it contained a lot of the comic-con footage that screened last July (and upon reading Matt’s breakdown I realized he was right), but it was of course all new to me. I also think we saw a few additional scenes from the end of the film that Matt didn’t already detail.
The footage started off with the film’s opening scenes which, in addition to a nice Werner Herzog parody, introduces the titular characters. Despite the assumption that there’s not much that can be done to visually differentiate the penguins from one another, the visual artists manage to bring each of them to life in their own recognizable ways (aided by the voice talent on hand of course). The writing is also sharp and nuanced and, while the humor is very kid-centric, should make the film at the very least a pleasurable diversion for the adults in the audience.
The scenes that Matt didn’t already detail come from the third act, which takes place in Dave’s (the evil octopus voiced by John Malkovich) headquarters. Not all of the animation here was complete but there were enough finished shots to get a good sense of the stakes and scale of the sequence. Here the penguins must work together with their uneasy allies, the super-slick ops team that call themselves “The North Wind” (led by a wolf named “Classified” voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) to stop Dave’s doomsday machinations. The gulf between the penguins’ low tech approach and the sophisticated methodology of “The North Wind” finally being bridged in the process. All in all my impression of this film was that it will play very well over Thanksgiving weekend.
As far as Night as the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is concerned, I don’t think we saw a single completed shot from the film in the 15 minutes we were shown. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as the performances seemed fine and the movie felt very much in line with what I’ve seen from the first two installments, but it’s hard to judge the sweep of the film’s aesthetic since it was primarily pre-viz intermingling with live action.
Having seen the opening scene, I can say that the film wastes no time in bringing back the familiar fan favorite characters from the first two movies during a grand ball that is about to be thrown at the Smithsonian. Soon, foreboding changes in an ancient Egytptian tablet instigate a trip across the pond to the British Museum in London. There, after an extended sequence with Rebel Wilson as a security guard, we are introduced to Ben Kingsley’s Pharaoh who has the info Stiller and company need.
Most of the action from the footage shown stemmed from a giant set piece in which the group is chased through the halls of the British Museum by a triceratops skeleton. Again, most of this was unfinished but the beats and mechanics within the scene work well. At the end we’re introduced to Dan Stevens’ Sir Lancelot in a performance that, even in the limited amount we were shown, displayed enough charisma to walk away with the whole movie.
That’s about it. I can definitely say that Penguins of Madagascar is shaping up to be a great kids movie and, from what I’ve seen, fans of the Night of the Museum series won’t be let down by this new installment.