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March of the Penguins (PG)

Release Date: June 24th, 2005 (NYC-Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas), by Warner Independent.
The Cast: Hundreds of penguins.
Directed by Luc Jacquet.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the Antarctic Emperor penguin's annual journey to lay one egg.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: This is one of the most visually-stunning films of the year. Every shot is beautifully captures the frozen landscape of these "cursed" penguins. They are cursed because each year they travel many miles through very strong winds and subzero temperatures just to mate and to lay one egg. This journey makes the film seem like an epic with hundreds of "actors". Besides the breath-taking visuals, the musical score is also phenomenal. Surprisingly, there is a little humor during a long shot of the penguins marching as if they were humans. This anthropomorphism adds a level of tension to the film, such as when the penguins go looking for their chicks that may or may not have survived the cold, harsh weather. The narration by Morgan Freeman is very effective thanks to his very pleasant, soothing voice.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Surprisingly, there is a lot to think about while watching this documentary. First of all, the male penguins are the ones who end up caring for their chicks, which is typically the role of the female in other species. The level of care is very touching and even implies that there they truly love one another. At the end of the cycle, it is amazing how the mothers can easily recognize their chick among hundreds of others simply by the sounds they make---all within a split second. There is one scene where a mother penguin tries to steal chicks from other mothers because hers is dead. This is a clear example of jealousy, which is also present in human nature. There is another scene when the penguins form a huddle to keep warm from the subzero temperatures and ferocious winds. They take turns being inside and outside the circle so that those on the outside won't have to suffer too long and even die. This theme of "strength in numbers" is very uplifting and also applies to human beings.



THE BOTTOM LINE: A surprisingly touching documentary that is equally breath-taking to watch and even magical. It is also thought-provoking enough for one to actually be able to relate to these the penguin's actions.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)

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