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March of the Penguins

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For 13 months, Jacquet and his crew braved Antarctic temperatures as low as 70 degrees below zero - and winds up to 150 mph - to capture astonishing images of thousands of emperor penguins engaging in a mating and child-rearing ritual that is nothing short of astonishing.

During the course of a brutal winter, an endless line of incredibly cute penguins shuffle - or, when they get tired, slide on the ice - for the 70-mile trek from the ocean to their ancestral breeding grounds.

After they get down to business and a single egg is laid, mom gingerly transfers it to the father, who carefully carries it on his feet and transfers it to a pouch - since a few seconds of exposure can kill the egg, the risk is considerable.

The male then huddles with a thousand or more other penguins - their backs against the winter's worst - while mom heads back to the ocean to catch a few fish.

This remarkable marathon - with the males and females trading off - takes place several times until the chicks hatch and endure blinding blizzards awaiting their mother's return and their first trip to the ocean.

Despite their remarkable teamwork, penguins mate for a single season and seek new partners the next year.

Morgan Freeman strikes a perfect note of bemusement reading the English-language narration written by Jordan Roberts, even as he notes that some penguins don't survive the difficult journey.

In France, where it was called "The Emperor's Journey," the film featured the voices of two French actors "playing" an anthropomorphic penguin couple.

I didn't see that version, which played at the Sundance Film Festival, but by most accounts, the American version is an improvement.

"March of the Penguins," which does for penguins what "Winged Migration" did for birds, should draw flocks of kids of all ages to the Lincoln Plaza and the Angelika for this G-rated delight.


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