Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Screen salute to Earth Day and 'Penguins' succeeds despite a silly voice

True confessions: I've never been a big fan of actor/comedian Ed Helms. The guy almost always plays a doofus (or some such even more descriptive noun), and his grating voice ceaselessly sounds sillier than sincere. So, why do I remain a big supporter of Earth Day's latest cinematic celebration, "Disneynature: Penguins," a documentary that features some rather offbeat narration from Helms?

"Steve" tends to one of his chicks in the often picture-perfect "Penguins."
Why, because, these darn title creatures so continuously amaze me, especially in the up-close-and-personal way those famous Disney nature lenses capture them. Certainly Helms can't be blamed, anyway, for filmmakers hoping to get young audiences into movie theaters by focusing on one particularly charming Adelie penguin, tagging him with the name Steve, and letting said narrator give cutesy voice to what might be on Steve's mind.

Of course, those aforementioned cameras are what really speak volumes in showing how these Antarctic inhabitants annually repeat their rough-and-tumble, 100-mile journey on sea and ice to build rock and pebble nests. Somehow, this vast multitude of males then manages to pick out their same mates in a veritable cast of identical thousands of later arriving females, and even instinctively helps train their chicks to repeat the seasonal routine all by themselves one day.

In Steve's case, his coming-of-age adventure becomes unusually appealing, since it's the 5-year-old's first solo go-round through this enduring migration, which mandates that he finds his own mate for life and eventually literally helps feed the ever-hungry mouths of their own babies.

Incredibly powerful wind storms and some life-threatening predators also might get in the way of the natural fun, though never the gorgeous cinematography, which includes guest cameos from killer whales and at least two intriguing species of seals.

By the way, Disney will donate a portion of first-week ticket sales to the Wildlife Conservation Network. Obviously, it's a worthy effort in many ways. Happy Earth Day!

Rated "G": some moments of animals in peril; 1:16; $ $ $ $ out of $5

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