Farce of the Penguins | TV+Streaming | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

If you found the 2005 French documentary March of the Penguins to be uplifting, and a delightful family film, Farce of the Penguins may not be for you. On the other hand, if you loved the footage of the goofy black-and-white Antarctic birds but felt that March lacked, say, big-dick jokes, a gay musical number or a baby-daddy drama involving a questionable sex act, then your penguin story has arrived on DVD.

Depending on your tastes, Bob Saget's full-length, pervasively profane parody of the award-winning nature film is either comic genius or ornithological sacrilege. Saget rounded up loads of stock footage and stitched together a narrative comparable to March: the penguins' 70-mile trek to their mating area. Rather than the stentorian tones of March narrator Morgan Freeman, Farce lays on Samuel L. Jackson, who -- you guessed it -- frequently loses his cool. And, taking a page from the original French version, Saget gives his penguins voices.

Thus we follow four primary penguins in their quest to meet a soulmate: the insecure Carl (voice of Saget) and his cynical buddy Jimmy (voice of Lewis Black), and two winsome penguin ladies, voiced by Christina Applegate and Mo'Nique. Naturally, there's hundreds more penguins, and Saget recruits every comic actor working -- and not working (whoa, Abe Vigoda's in this?) -- for a line.

The script is low-rent slap-shtick; some of it works, plenty of it lays there like frozen guano. But I enjoyed the slapdash way Saget pasted this film together -- which, intentionally or not, lends it a kooky absurdity. Saget has no qualms editing in footage of other animals to make a joke. All penguins look alike, so while the film tries to match the dialogue to appropriate penguin behavior (head-bobbing and wing-flapping), good luck following "Jimmy" (who himself comments on the impossibility of knowing which penguin is talking).

Speaking for myself, I could watch emperor penguins waddle (and fall over) for hours: They're just inherently funny. So if March restored the dignity of these snickered-at creatures and won itself high praise as meaningful entertainment, then Farce, in time-honored tradition, strips all that away. Sometimes a well-timed fart is worthy of a laugh, and no more so in Farce than when the French film-director penguins take umbrage. That's the way of the world ... even in Antarctica.

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