Teaching children about animals by accentuating their similarities to human beings is a great place to start. But penguins aren't people — a fact director Anthony Geffen's "Adventures of the Penguin King" works hard to ignore.
"I haven't been home in three years," announces Rex, the protagonist bird voiced by Tim Allen. But explaining his long absence would inevitably remind the audience of the vast differences between our species and his, so the movie passes on the opportunity to inform viewers about penguin migratory patterns.
There are, in fact, many such missed opportunities. Loosely structured as a father-son story, the limited perspective imposed by first-person narration makes "Penguin King" about as educational as one of those endangered-animal trading cards that used to come with a subscription to Zoobooks. It's hard to remember here that Allen was once an electrifying stand-up comedian and a beloved sitcom star, reduced as he is to fart jokes less sophisticated than a 9-year-old making wet noises with his fist in an armpit.
The inherent cinematic potential of one of nature's cutest animals rescues the film from being a total waste of time. Geffen can certainly boast variety in his footage, with shots of penguins swimming, molting and hanging around elephant seals. But "Penguin King" is neither entertaining enough to be candy, nor substantive enough to be broccoli.
"Adventures of the Penguin King."
MPAA rating: Rated PG for brief mild language.
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes.
Playing: AMC Orange 30.