March of the Penguins (2005)

Genres - Nature  |   Sub-Genres - Animals, Natural Environments  |   Release Date - Jun 24, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 85 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - G
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Review by Derek Armstrong

Harnessing the drama of ten Oscar nominees in the simple act of mated penguins transferring an egg across frigid ice, March of the Penguins became a documentary phenomenon, grossing upwards of 70 million dollars and thriving in theaters for months on the strength of its word of mouth. But the most phenomenal detail is that March is not that different from something you might stumble across on Animal Planet, except for being narrated by Morgan Freeman. What March of the Penguins revealed was a true audience appetite for low-tech real-world nourishment, and for a film that would please children without resorting to garish animated fads and their product tie-ins. From the moment the penguins' bobbing heads first peek over the horizon, it's clear the audience will be brought into touch with both the familiar and the unknown; familiar because everyone knows and loves penguins in the abstract, but unknown because few have a sense of the arduous life cycle these determined creatures endure. In their own amazing feat of endurance, Luc Jacquet's crew has captured a palpable sense of both the macroscopic and microscopic struggles of the emperor penguin's mating ritual, documenting the cold and snowy hours in which the birds cling to their basic survival impulse. The harsh conditions also have the effect of putting into perspective the problems of a movie patron sitting in an air-conditioned theater. Laurent Chalet's beautiful camerawork of the Antarctic landscape demands to be seen on the big screen, but even at home on DVD, March of the Penguins is something far more profound than your average nature film.