March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins

Pretty much as you'd expect, this is a cute, informative, and often very beautiful documentary about the complicated breeding habits of the emperor penguin. The big mystery is why this became such a huge box office hit in the US during the otherwise dud-packed summer of 2005. Perhaps people were so desperate to see something of quality in cinemas that they decided to invest their time and money into a film that otherwise wouldn't rate much higher than a good Discovery Channel show.

I actually think the American repackaging of this film tells the most interesting story: The original French version had three narrators - one for pere, one for mere and one for le bebe penguin, each speaking in the first person. Was this gimmick too sickeningly cute for Yank art house filmgoers, which is why the American distributors replaced it all with Morgan Freeman's stately narration? Or was Jacquet's original vision a richer, more unique filmgoing experience? Unless I ever see the French version (which also had a different soundtrack, one supposedly more trip-hoppy and electro), I won't know. All I can say is that I think March of the Penguins is just fine, but no great shakes.