Family Movie Review: March of the Penguins

If you’ve read some of our other movie reviews, you know we don’t always use the best (or any) judgment when choosing films to watch with our children.

So when we found March of the Penguins available on Netflix instant viewing, we were thrilled -- what could be more family friendly?

Everything’s cool for the first fifteen minutes. Lovely footage, soothing narration provided by Mr. Morgan Freeman, and we’re learning some cool shit about penguins. It’s not the most exciting thing ever, but since I refuse to watch most children’s movies, it’s a good compromise.

The penguins gather at their wintering-over spot, copulate, and lay their eggs. But here’s the tricky part. After an egg is laid, the mama penguin has to transfer it to the papa penguin. Why? Because Mama’s got to high-tail it to the ocean, catch and eat a bunch of fish, rush back to the flock and regurgitate the food for her newborn chick.

I wish I could do that.

At this point we're thinking that maybe we're actually capable of choosing a kid-appropriate movie. It's heartwarming, educational, and the kids think the whole regurgitation thing is very gnarly and cool.

Ah, but it’s during this egg transfer process that things start to go south. It seems that if the penguins don’t get the transfer exactly right, the egg rolls off into the snow and can’t be recovered. Why? I’m not really sure – I’m guessing it has something to do with their tiny brains and lack of opposable thumbs -- but the upshot is frozen penguin embryo omelet.

So the sad music starts and soon the screen is littered with abandoned, off-color penguin eggs. “Eggs that will never hatch.”

Our middle son, who is very sweet, very sensitive, and who loves all animals (baby animals in particular) starts to understand what’s going on here.

Here’s a ‘lil snippet of the resulting conversation:

  • Miles: “What’s wrong with that egg? Why isn’t it with a daddy penguin?”
  • Me: “Uh, well, there was a problem, and the daddy can’t get the egg back on his feet.”
  • Miles: “So another penguin is going to get the egg?”
  • Me: (Looking toward Michael, who’s avoiding eye contact) “Well, no, that egg isn’t going to hatch now.”
  • Miles: (Incredulously) “You mean the baby in the egg is DEAD!?”
  • Me: “Yes, it’s very sad, but not all the eggs hatch.”
  • Miles: (Recovering quickly) “But that’s ok, because that penguin will just lay another egg.”
  • Me: “Yes, she can, next year.”
  • Miles: “That’s not fair! Why can’t she just have another egg this year? Does she know her baby died? Does she know that she can’t have another egg until next year? Why can’t she just have another one? It’s not fair!”

I pleadingly look at Michael, who shrugs and stuffs a handful of popcorn in his mouth. Bastard.

  • Me: (Grasping) “Animals don’t experience things like death the same way people do. She probably knows something is wrong, but can’t really understand what it means. It’s not the same as a human mom.”
  • Miles: (Starting to cry.)“How do you know? You don’t know that. What if she does know? What if it is the same?”
  • Me: (Glaring at Michael, whose only contribution is to lamely mutter something about the ‘great circle of life’) “Miles, honey, we’re just gonna have to see what happens. I’m sure most of the eggs hatch just fine.”

And then Morgan Freeman said, “But the worst is still to come.”


The next hour was pretty much a non-stop festival of penguin death. On…and on…and on it went. Storms separate baby penguins from the flock and they freeze to death. Babies starve to death before mothers can make it back with food. Mother penguins die from exhaustion or starvation and then their babies die from starvation. Evil seagulls attack and kill baby penguins (in slow-mo, no less). Christ, it was a fucking blood-bath.

At this point, Miles was curled up in my lap, his tears silently dropping onto my chest. Once in a while he would sniff and ask for another Kleenex.

I did ask him if he wanted to turn the movie off, but he thought it would be better if he “found out what happened to all of the baby penguins and the moms.” Ugh. This was not encouraging. At this point, things were looking seriously fucked for those baby penguins, and not much better for the fully grown birds.

And then there was the seal. The mother-fucking seal.

Seals are the playful clowns of the sea, right? Oh no. In March of the Penguins, seals are vicious, bloodthirsty and have a rack of teeth as terrifying as any Great White shark.

Of course, the seal takes a mama penguin down. And if we all weren’t feeling bad enough, Mr. Freeman chimes in to remind us that the seal is responsible for two deaths, since her baby will now starve. Thanks for pointing that out, Morgan.

Our youngest son had pretty much lost interest at this point, and we assumed he was just a little too young to really grasp the totality of the carnage. That's until he started wandering into the room from time to time to ask helpful questions like, “Did all the baby penguins die yet?” or “Is that one dead too?”

After the seal incident, Miles decided he’d had enough, so I can’t really tell you how the movie ended. I assume at least one penguin made it through the winter and back to the ocean, perhaps to become a tasty snack for chompy the seal.

So, in summary, if you want an evening filled with death, weeping and the fucking circle of life, check out March of the Penguins with your kids!


Foodstuff Review: The Trader Redeems Itself

It's true I don’t like everything at Trader Joe’s. It’s true that not everyone agrees with my reviews. Case in point, these two gentlemen took offense at my assessment of Trader’s Korean-style short ribs.

Joe T said...

"Short Ribs are suppose to be thin. Stupid. And you cooked them to be burnt. Idiot. The fat is around the bone which there is not a lot of. Either A) you hate meat or B) God made you with a bad sense of judgment."

jason said...

"i agree with the comment above. these are great short ribs. cook on the highest part of your grill (open lid) for 2 mins each side and they are perfect. fat and all!
to quote the guy above....learn to cook before you post these comment....stupid!"

Uh, let's settle down ee cummings, it’s just a piece of meat. I don’t care for the ribs, so you best learn to live with it. I don't have to like the ribs, I can write about how I don't like the ribs, and you're free to shove burnt fat and marrow in your gob until the cows come home. God Bless America.

I will point out that most readers agreed with my assessment of the Trader's four-cheese pizza. There just isn't a lot of wiggle room. This pizza is so terrible, even kids reject it. That’s pretty fucking bad.

And let's not even talk about the light Mayonnaise, except to say that any product that can render bacon inedible must be the work of Satan himself.

But I’m a forgiving person (or maybe just stupid – just ask Joe T or Jason, above), so I’ll give most things a second chance.

That's why, when my lovely sister-in-law presented me with Trader Joe’s Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s cookies, I proceeded with an open mind and stomach.

God Damn! These cookies rock the fucking house.

Envision a perfect, fresh, double-stuffed Oreo. BUT, between the chocolate wafers, blended into the creamy filling, is a generous measure of crisp, cool, crumbly shards of peppermint candy cane. Enough said.

Sit back, pour yourself a glass of 1%, and you've reached cookie nirvana.

And it gets even better. Unbelievably, the greedy little brats (Uh, I mean, the blessed fruit of our loin. Wait? Is it loin, or loins? Do you have one or two loins?) DIDN'T LIKE the peppermint Joe-Joe’s.

Let me break it down:

Delicious cookie + children who don’t appreciate said delicious cookie = Christmas fucking miracle!

I’d say you’re forgiven, Trader Joe's.

Product (Apparel) Review: Land's End Men's Barn Jacket

(This is an old post, but I think it bears repeating and I really have to write some new stuff. Enjoy.)

A long time ago (pre-nuptials, I believe) I borrowed and lost a beloved jacket of Michael’s. It involved a lakefront festival and much too much fermented beverage.

I felt bad.

In time, I replaced it with a Land’s End Barn Jacket. To say Michael liked this coat is a gross understatement. He wore it in any weather. Wind chills could be hovering near 30 below and he’d claim the barn jacket was sufficient to keep him toasty warm. He wore it everywhere -- weddings, fancy dinners, job interviews.

I once had to prevent him from wearing it to a funeral over a perfectly nice dark suit.

Of course, even the most well-made garment must at some point succumb to this amount of wear. One day, Michael caught a side pocket in a doorknob and ripped a large hole around the pocket seam.

I offered to repair or replace the jacket, but Michael resisted. He continued to wear the coat, claiming “no one can even see that little rip.” After repeated pleas that he stop wearing the coat, he maintained the position that the tear was minor and practically unnoticeable. I tried begging, bribing and hiding the coat. Yet each morning, there it was, the ”practically unnoticeable” rip staring me in the face.

One day, as Michael was walking home from work, he attracted the attention of a group of young men, possibly students from the Milwaukee High School of the Arts. In a fit a high spirits, these men attempted to get Michael’s attention:

“Yo, bitch!”


“Hey, BITCH!”

When Michael smartly attempted to ignore these gentlemen, they decided to up their game a bit.

(At this point, please remember the boys were across the street from Michael.)


Yep, that tear was “barely noticeable,” isn’t that right, ‘ol rip-ass coat bitch?

I have to admit, when Michael relayed the story to me, I was not a good spouse. Instead of consoling him about the harassment, I fell to the floor and laughed uncontrollably for twenty minutes. I stood up, attempted to pull myself together and offer support, but then noticed Michael was still wearing the coat. I once again fell in a fit of hysterical laughter. This happened on and off for the next week or so. I'm giggling right now just writing about it.

But the next day, I went out and bought 'ol rip-ass coat bitch a new barn jacket.

So, if you want to avoid harassment from teens and ridicule from your spouse, a new, unblemished Land's End Men's Barn Jacket is a great item to include in your outerwear wardrobe.