An adorable Adélie penguin named Steve — and his search for love and the perfect nesting spot — is the focus of Disneynature’s latest documentary.
Although it does depict the often harsh life of wildlife in Antarctica, it’s a far cry from the heartbreakingly grim “March of the Penguins.” This is more of a meet-cute penguin love story that slips in factoids about the flightless birds along the way as it shows a year in the life of a penguin colony.
The film also helps raise money to help penguins like Steve: For every ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2019), Disneynature will make a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Network to help protect penguins across the southern hemisphere.
As narrated by Ed Helms, we follow five-year-old Steve as he struggles to keep up with the thousands of his fellow penguins as they make the annual spring trek to the coastline. It’s not clear how the filmmakers keep track of Steve in that sea of penguins, or how they know his age, but he sure is a cute little guy and of course we want him to succeed at every step.
Helms not only narrates, but voices Steve’s (supposed) inner thoughts as he worries about finding a suitable nesting spot — and a mate. (Spoiler: Yes, he finds a female penguin who thinks he’s the bee’s knees.)
The “here in Antarctica…” dramatic voiceover and Steve’s “Whoops!” as he slips and falls might have been better delivered by two different actors, but Helms does a nice job of differentiating narration from comical “penguin thoughts.”
There are some tense moments, as penguins have several natural predators. Steve and his colony must survive not only killer winds and killer whales, but the dreaded leopard seals, who are the scariest of the bunch.
The footage that’s captured here is truly remarkable. The movie’s scenes unfold so naturally you almost forget that someone had to be there to film them, but the end credits show the lengths the filmmakers went to get close to all the animals.
Maybe adding power rock ballads in key scenes are a bit much, but the film will certainly have you smiling at Steve’s and the other penguins’ antics. And a little in love with the baby penguins, who resemble hedgehogs as they morph between fuzzy youngsters and sleek adults.
“Disneynature Penguins” opens April 17.
Rating: 3 out of 4 paws