The March of the Penguins

This documentary about the yearly mating-and-survival rituals of a flock of Antarctica penguins plays like a high-end Discovery Channel special, but it’s compelling and beautiful just the same, exuding a love for its subject matter that’s infectious. Plus, how can you not love a baby penguin? Morgan Freeman’s suitably stately narration lends an ennobling quality to these penguins. His gentle but weary voice is exactly right for conveying the penguins’ hardships, for every step of their journey from the sea to their mating grounds, followed by their precarious efforts to keep their young alive, is fraught with risks and dangers. Given the multitudinous ways in which a penguin-chick or its parents can meet with death, it’s a marvel that the species has been able to continue this long. Death is a constant companion in their lives as they leap onto Antarctica’s ice shelf every winter and begin the grim march to their mating grounds. Then, if a male penguin is lucky enough to mate, comes the anxious difficulties of nesting and keeping the eggs warm against Antarctica’s icy winds and of properly nourishing the young once the eggs hatch. The documentary tends towards the cheesy and sentimental–anthropomorphizing the birds to a fault–but its loving dedication to these resilient birds aptly conveys its life-affirming message.

Grade: B

Directed by: Luc Jacquet
Written by: Jordan Roberts (US version); Luc Jacquet, Michel Fessler (earlier version)
Narrator: Morgan Freeman (US version)

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