Review: Disney's 'Penguins' a cuddly good time

Ed Helms narrated this lighthearted look at some of nature's most adorable creatures

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
A scene from "Penguins."

People run hot and cold on dogs, which is understandable; some people just don't like love and affection. Different strokes for different folks. 

But is there anyone out there who doesn't like penguins? They are absolutely adorable little creatures, they waddle, and they're always dressed for a black-tie affair. It's tough to go wrong. 

And with "Penguins," the latest documentary from Disneynature (see also "Monkey Kingdom," "Bears"), it's tough to go wrong. It's a cuteness overload as the Disney cameras track an Adélie penguin for a year as he makes his long march to set up a nest, find a mate and help raise his baby penguins before the Antarctic winter sets in again.

It's miraculous, given the sheer number of penguins from which to choose, that the Disney cameras stumbled upon "Steve," the clumsy, cuddly 5-year-old penguin who becomes the underdog hero of the story. He provides a narrative and also a character to easily rally behind; directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson couldn't have found a better subject out of central casting. 

Ed Helms narrates and also gives voice to Steve, as well as other animals on screen, like he's reading a story to children. The lighthearted approach follows through to the music cues; Patti LaBelle's "Stir It Up" plays while Steve is stumbling across the snowy terrain, REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight This Feeling" soundtracks his courting of a mate, and Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again" is used while Steve walks off into the sunset. (Probably not what Whitesnake had in mind for that song, but no matter.) 

The Disney-fication of the story necessitates villainizing the penguin predators, even though they, too, are just doing their thing. Those instances aside, docs don't really get much cuter than this one. "Penguins" is a charmer.



Rated G: Nothing objectionable

Running time: 76 minutes