March of the Penguins  AUG 19 2005  rating: 4.0 stars

This French film[1] is one of those movies that comes along once or twice a year and has Hollywood scratching its head as to why it's so popular and where the hell did it come from any anyway? Then there's a scramble to duplicate the success, usually predicated on the idea that the particular subject matter somehow touched a nerve with people, and 9-12 months later, you start seeing things like The Poughkeepsie Witch Project advertised in the Entertainment section of your local newspaper.

March of the Penguins -- along with Wedding Crashers, I guess -- is the surprise hit of the summer. Like many sleeper hits, there's something quite unHollywood about it; it wasn't manufactured to push specific demographic buttons or market tested to within an inch of its life. It's handmade, crafted, and full of soul. Which isn't to say that it's perfect; I thought a little more narration would have filled in some of the gaps...those penguins were so damn interesting, I wanted to hear so much more about them.

[1] MotP just passed Amelie (a better film, IMO) to become the second highest grossing French film in the US. The Fifth Element is still #1.

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