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MOVIE REVIEW 'March of the Penguins' is example of cinematic art



Published: Thu, July 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



This isn't the first documentary about penguins.

By BETSY PICKLE

SCRIPPS HOWARD

It's hard to imagine anything more beautiful than the surreal Antarctic landscapes director Luc Jacquet puts on screen in "March of the Penguins."

And yet Jacquet finds it in the story of instinct, survival and family he tells. His incredible documentary about emperor penguins pays tribute to the beautiful and resilient flightless birds that spend the majority of their life at sea, coming ashore only to mate and breed in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

The film, narrated by Morgan Freeman, follows the penguins as they make their annual trek to their colony, walking and sliding up to 70 miles across the Antarctic ice pack. Once they arrive, the rituals of courtship and procreation begin.

After the females hatch their eggs -- one apiece -- they pass them off to their mates and wearily head back to the ocean to feed. By the time they return with food for the chicks in four months, the males will have lost half their body weight.

"March of the Penguins" isn't the first documentary to chronicle the amazing exploits of emperor penguins. But it's the first time such a film has made the leap into cinematic art.

The underwater footage of penguins swimming -- and trying to evade predators -- is breathtaking. The scenes of their march and life in the colony have humor, drama and beauty.

Plenty of docs aired on television can quench penguin lovers' curiosity about the facts of the birds' lives. Jacquet's film celebrates the penguins' journey in a more personal and personality-filled way.

He zeroes in on one couple and gives viewers a rooting interest in their survival. He even depicts G-rated but evocative penguin foreplay.

Scientists may find the results too touchy-feely, but "March of the Penguins" should open the hearts of previously nonchalant viewers and fire their interest in making the world a better place for penguins.




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