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Without question, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS ($29) was one of the surprise box office hits of 2005.  Of course, anyone who has seen this beautiful film can understand why it was a hit, with its attractive, well-dressed stars first finding romance, and then braving impossible odds in their fight for survival and the survival of their young.  Sure, its sounds like a sure fire hit, in perfect Hollywood cookie cutter fashion, but MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is in reality a French nature documentary.  MARCH OF THE PENGUINS tells the simple story of the mating cycle of the Emperor Penguin, which plays out on the backdrop of one of the harshest and most starkly beautiful places on the planet- namely Antarctica.

Narrated in soothing tones by Morgan Freeman, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS follows these beautiful, flightless water fowl as they emerge from the ocean and trek over seventy miles over land to the barren breeding grounds of their ancestors.  Once the Emperor Penguins arrive at the appointed location, they seek out a mate and the cycle of life begins anew.  Over the course of months the female will lay an egg, and then march seventy miles back to the sea, before they are overcome by starvation.  This leaves the males to care for the eggs during the harsh winter months, where they face potential starvation, as they go many months additional without food.  Of course, the chicks hatch shortly before the females return with food for their young and the males succumb to starvation.

Warner Home Video has made MARCH OF THE PENGUINS available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays.  Considering the condition under which this documentary was shot, MARCH OF THE PENGUINS really looks quite good on DVD.  The image is generally sharp and really nicely defined, especially the close ups of the penguins themselves.  Film grain is present much of the time, which is pretty much a given in documentary film making of this type.  Colors have respectable saturation, but it limited to the subject matter at hand- largely black and white penguins with only a smattering of color markings, plus the stark whites and cool blues of the stark Antarctic landscape.  Blacks are accurately rendered, the whites are crisp and the contrast is generally smooth.  Digital compression artifacts are always well contained during this eighty-minute film.

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS comes with a very pleasant Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack that keeps one focused on the penguins and not the wow factor of the sound. Not surprisingly, ambient sound and musical fill make up the vast majority of the surround content.  However, the forward soundstage does shine in its presentation of both the film’s score and narration.  Fidelity is strong in regards to the musical content, while the recordings the penguins themselves seem completely naturalistic.  A Spanish 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some enjoyable supplemental features.  Of Penguins And Men is a fifty-three minute documentary that gives one a look behind the scenes at the men who braved the perils of Antarctica to make this wonderful documentary.  National Geographic’s Crittercam: Emperor Penguins runs twenty-four minutes and provides more insight into the life of the penguins, coming from the perspective of the birds thanks to a specially outfitted camera.  Next up is the classic Bugs Bunny short, 8 Ball Bunny- this is the one in which we discovers that "penguins is practically chickens" as Bugs attempts to take a lost penguin home to the South Pole.  A theatrical trailer closes out the supplemental features.

MARCH OF THE PENGUINS is one of the most beautiful, life affirming nature films that this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of seeing.  The DVD edition is quite nice in its own right and it comes highly recommended.



March of the Penguins (Widescreen Edition) (2005)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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