Case Number 17688: Small Claims Court


March Of The Penguins
Warner Bros. // 2005 // 80 Minutes // Rated G
On The Wings Of Penguins
Warner Bros. // 2009 // 69 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // November 12th, 2009

The Charge

Another uplifting journey of hope and discovery.

The Case

In 2005, if you weren't talking about Brokeback Mountain, the movie you might have been talking about was March of the Penguins, the extraordinary French documentary about the journey the Emperor penguins in the Antarctic take each year to their mating and breeding ground. With its fascinating story and exceptional visuals, the film captivated audiences, becoming the second-highest grossing documentary of all time (behind Fahrenheit 9/11) and winning numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Documentary. Adding to the appeal of the film was the back story of how Director Luc Jacquet and his crew traveled to the Antarctic and endured arduous conditions, including sub-freezing temperatures, in order to get the footage they needed. The DVD release of March of the Penguins included a featurette, "Of Penguins and Men," chronicling the production of the film.

Warner Bros. is now rereleasing March of the Penguins as a companion disc for On the Wings of Penguins, a documentary about African penguins.

On the Wings of Penguins is a perfectly charming and informative program, the kind of thing you might see on The Discovery Channel or National Geographic. The narrator -- who, I believe, I've heard on other nature documentaries (or, he's just got that kind of a voice) -- gives us background on African penguins, which are a warm-weather variety, so they're popular attractions at zoos and aquariums. Much of the film, in fact, takes place at penguin habitats and features commentary from penguin caregivers.

In addition to the zoo and aquarium sequences, we learn about penguins that were rescued after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans; travel to South Africa with some penguin conservationists; and are treated to a lengthy sequence in which a team of doctors performs cataract surgery on a senior-citizen penguin.

These are all very nicely shot and narrated, and comfortingly, everything turns out well. While this makes Wings of a little easier to watch than March of, it also makes it less compelling. While March of gave us the birds pretty much on their own and didn't shy away from the rigors and perils of the march, Wings of is more a man-and-bird story, and an uplifting one at that. It's heartwarming to see how dedicated people are to helping out our flightless friends and it's educational, as well. It just lacks the life-and-death drama and beautiful vistas that we got in March of the Penguins.

The March of the Penguins disc is the same one that was released before, with a great-looking transfers and the same slate of extras: "Of Penguins and Men," Crittercam, and the cartoon "Eight-Ball Bunny." On the Wings of Penguins sports a full-frame transfer for its shot-on-high-def source and no extras.

If you already have a copy of March of the Penguins, On the Wings of Penguins does not necessitate an upgrade. If you don't own March of, you should. It's one of the great nature documentaries, and if you think of Wings of as a cool bonus disc, then this package is certainly worthy of a recommendation.

The Verdict

The birds walk, though some walk taller than others.

Review content copyright © 2009 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, March Of The Penguins
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile, March Of The Penguins
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Rated G

Distinguishing Marks, March Of The Penguins
* Featurettes
* Cartoon
* Trailer

Scales of Justice, On The Wings Of Penguins
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, On The Wings Of Penguins
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 69 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, On The Wings Of Penguins
* Stuffed Penguin

* IMDb: March of the Penguins