Step Right Up! Karen Joins the March of the Penguins!

by Karen Gsteiger

The concept of spoilers is pretty irrelevant with this movie.

March of the Penguins, Luc Jacquet's astounding documentary about emperor penguin husbandry in the heart of the Antarctic, is just made to be the perfect date movie. Look, if fluffy, chirping baby penguins don't break your heart and fill it with warm fuzzies, then you're not even human, and I don't want to know you. Seriously. I mean, baby penguins!!!

This documentary depicts the unbelievable breeding habits of emperor penguins in the harshest weather conditions imaginable. These animals march 70 miles one way to find a mate and lay an egg. The females then transfer their eggs to the males and march 70 miles again to find food after losing one-third of their body weight. The males, who have no access to food for months, will balance the eggs on top of their feet to keep it warm and huddle together during blizzards where the temperature hits something around 70 degrees below zero and during which the sun barely shines. Once the mothers return, the males will once again make their march back to the sea and so on, taking turns until their babies are hatched and grown up enough to fend for themselves. The narration, as read by Morgan Freeman, probably anthropomorphizes the animals a bit more than warranted, but it's impossible to describe the actions of these birds as anything utter than complete devotion. I can think of many humans who would have quickly abandoned their own children under similar conditions.

What's even more amazing to me than the penguins and their determination to live in the most unpleasant place on earth are the filmmakers and their willingness to endure these conditions to bring this documentary to us. The credits give us just a taste of what they endured with "behind the scenes" footage. I hope they found it enjoyable. Although I dearly love penguins, it would have been hell on earth to me.

Keep in mind that it's probably not the most action-filled film in the world. A good portion of the documentary is penguins standing around looking very, very cold. But if you love penguins, there are more than enough awwwww! moments to hold your interest. And if you, like me, have always been fascinated by Antarctica, you'll get a really intimate glimpse of life (such as it is) there.

So go see March of the Penguins on the hottest day this summer. And remember that even in the most God-forsaken corners of our planet, you can find beauty and mystery and love. If humans haven't fucked it all up, that is.