Review: ‘March of the Penguins’

Sometimes an import can <I>gain </I>something in translation. Case in point: "March of the Penguins," the smartly Americanized edition of the breathtakingly beautiful nature docu reviewed by <I>Variety </I>in French-lingo version under its original title -- "The Emperor's Journey" -- at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Sometimes an import can gain something in translation. Case in point: “March of the Penguins,” the smartly Americanized edition of the breathtakingly beautiful nature docu reviewed by Variety in French-lingo version under its original title — “The Emperor’s Journey” (“La Marche de l’empereur”) — at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Aimed squarely at auds that flocked to “Winged Migration,” fascinating pic about penguin mating rituals could waddle through leggy summer run with savvy marketing in limited release.

Helmer Luc Jacquet originally used an anthropomorphic approach while dramatizing the procreation cycle of emperor penguins in frigid Antarctica icescapes. Specifically, he focused on a single couple out of thousands, “individualizing” the pair by employing actors Romane Bohringer and Charles Berling to voice the penguins murmuring sweet nothings to each other. (Jules Sitruk voiced their eventual offspring.)

Revised version prepared for co-release by Warner Independent Pictures and National Geographic Feature Films is more traditionally objective, with Morgan Freeman sounding the perfect notes of bemused wonderment and sympathetic seriousness while reading Jordan Roberts’ apt narration. (Penguins are viewed en masse, not up close and personal.) Americanized edition also replaces most of original’s somewhat overbearing score with less intrusive mood enhancement by composer Alex Wurman.

Despite trimming of five minutes for faster pacing, pic still renders brutal life-or-death struggle against nature with a vividness of detail that may frighten very small children. But spirit-lifting finale will delight auds hearty enough to brave the journey.

Click here to read Variety’s Feb. 2, 2005 review of ‘The Emperor’s Journey.’

March of the Penguins

France

Production

A Warner Independent Pictures, National Geographic Feature Films (U.S.) release of a Bonne Bloche production in association with Wild Bunch. Produced by Yves Darondeau, Christophe Lioud, Emmanuel Priou. Executive producer, Ilann Girard. Directed by Luc Jacquet. Written by Jordan Roberts, based on a script by Jacquet, Michel Fessler.

Crew

Camera (color), Laurent Chalet, Jerome Maison; editor, Sabine Emiliani; music, Alex Wurman; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Laurent Quaglio, Gerard Lamps. Reviewed at Angelika Film Center, Houston, June 16, 2005. MPAA Rating: G. Running time: 80 MIN.

With

Narrator: Morgan Freeman.
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