Story Theater Movie of the Week for Dec. 5-7

Staff Writer
Story City Herald
Story Theater Movie of the Week for Dec. 5-7

Meet “Dave,” The Penguins’ Tentacled Nemesis

Raiding Fort Knox for a tasty treat is nothing compared to the challenges the Penguins face when they come up against Dr. Octavius Brine. A renowned geneticist, cheese-enthusiast (at least he has that in common with the Penguins) and donor to public radio pledge drives, the good doctor’s limbs are skewed at impossible angles, which isn’t that surprising because he’s actually an octopus named Dave. And Dave bears a ginormous grudge against the Penguins. Dave was once a star attraction at various zoos around the world, until the adorable, cuter-than-cute Penguins stole the spotlight away from him, relegating him forever as an exhibit also-ran. “You took everything from me!” he bellows at the Penguins, and he’s about to take extreme measures to once again become a star attraction.

The filmmakers wanted Dave to be an adversary whom audiences wouldn’t soon forget. “Dave is a villain like those in the classic tradition of the James Bond films,” says producer Mark Swift. “He has a big agenda; this is a guy who wants to change the world.”

To give Dave a bigger-than-life comic presence, they really thought outside the box in casting the role. “We wanted someone who was new to animated features and would bring gravitas in terms of stage craft, which would bring some weight as well as fun to the character,” says Smith.

They turned to Academy Award nominee John Malkovich, who has distinguished himself in films, on stage, and on television. Making his animated feature debut, Malkovich quickly latched onto Dave’s vengeance-fueled motivations. “Dave feels he had his life ruined at every zoo and aquatic park he’s called home, once the Penguins arrived,” he notes. “They’re cute, so people oohed and aahed over them, so Dave would no longer get any attention.”

To Dave, the Penguins are the story’s true villains. “These Penguins ruined his life by stealing all the attention and just standing there or waddling around, while Dave actually performed tricks and acrobatics, only to have people ignore him,” adds the actor. “So he has very strong feelings about the Penguins, but they aren’t even aware of him. Which makes them even more annoying to Dave!”

Dave’s solution to his Penguin problem is a serum that turns the adorable creatures into tuxedo-clad grotesqueries. It’s a dastardly plan worthy of a true super-villain, but as Malkovich explains, Dave’s villainy has several dimensions. “He’s quite quixotic and can change moods and points of view almost instantaneously. So he’s slippery in every way - emotionally and physically.”

Nobody Breaks The Wind!

The Penguins are, however, ever-confident in their ability to deal with Dave’s insidious plans, but a group of covert operatives known as The North Wind (their motto: “Nobody breaks The Wind!”), who help animals in need, do not think the guys are up to the task. In fact, the members of The North Wind do everything they can to take over the mission to stop Dave, much to the chagrin of Skipper and the gang.

Joining Forces

It’s a safe bet that all the uber-spies of The North Wind will come around to the Penguins’ methods. And it’s an even more logical bet that the results of their teaming and battle with Dave will result in laughs and some heartfelt moments.

Moreover, says Eric Darnell, the Penguins, as a team and as individuals, offer something for everyone. “As an audience member, you can find any way into the Penguin team that suits your personality and point of view,” he explains.

Adds Simon J. Smith: “The Penguins are 100 percent committed to whatever they’re doing and always believe they’re going to do exactly the right thing, and even if it turns out wrong, they don’t care. They’ll try something else - and be equally confident about that. The Penguins don’t let the perceptions of others deter them; they prove that anyone is capable of being a hero and that you can do anything if you really put your mind to it. That’s what I love about them.”

Tom McGrath, who along with Eric Darnell helped give birth to the comic quartet nine years ago, notes: “If I had three words to describe PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR, I would just say, ‘funny,’ ‘funny,’ and ‘heart.’ It’s a broad comedy, of course, but there’s also some heart that sneaks up on you and has a great message for everyone, which is ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover.’”