I really like the Madagascar series! It's disjointed and odd at times, but the humor comes from such a wonderfully bizarre place, and the characters are such wonderful caricatures of the actors who voice them. So what happens when you take out all of the insane, moving cogs of a clock save one? It stops working.
Suddenly Dreamworks throws us into a world where the only characters we know are those weird, wacky penguins... characters that work in a secondary capacity because there are so many other characters to sort of ground them. But now the penguins have no safety net. If their gags and crude antics aren't working, there's nowhere else to turn. The penguins are it.
Forget for a moment how piss-poor the movie's setup is (they walk into Fort Knox undetected to steal a bag of puffy cheese snacks only to get captured by an octopus who poses as a human... who was apparently waiting there and expecting them to go into the employee break room all along?????) and recognize just how baffling it is that these characters were given a movie all to themselves in the first place. Not one of them is voiced by a big time celebrity (not that that should be the main focus here) and most of the time, their personalities seem to overlap to the point that you'd get them confused with each other if the writers didn't try so hard to prove to you they were different.
I've been liking what Dreamworks has been doing lately (they did have How to Train Your Dragon 2 earlier this year)... but this one feels like a mistake. No, it's not on par with the catastrophic anti-film that was Cars 2, and I feel like it will do a lot less to hurt the studios' cred with adults than that one did to Pixar. But it feels like filler, during a year when we desperately needed someone to step up and take hold of the animation category.
In the end, it seems The Lego Movie will have to sit on the 2014 animation mantel almost completely by its self.