Penguins, as we all know, are the most readily anthropomorphized of all birds. They totter about upright, with their flipper arms and their tuxedo markings. We also learn from Luc Jacquet's March of the Penguins that they are, like an ever increasing number of humans, serially monogamous. Every year emperor penguins meet, mate and remain faithfully bound--at least until their single offspring is walking and squawking.
But these are animals that suffer for their families. They're obliged to trek some 70 miles to their breeding ground (where the ice is thick enough to support the enormous colony). There they all approach starvation during the dark, 80º-below-zero winter, the father protecting the egg while the mother returns to the ocean for food, which she stores in her belly and disgorges to the hatched chick. She then takes over the baby sitting while the father makes the same journey. And so on.
Frankly, all that plodding about gets a little, well, plodding. On the other hand, there's something noble about the birds' dutifulness, about the mothers' response to a chick's death and about director Jacquet's refusal to impose human emotions on his subjects. Above all, the harsh blue-and-white beauty of this frozen world and the black-and-white birds assiduously heeding their ancient instincts--which bring life to a place where, in all logic, it should not exist--are very moving. It's a gentle film about somewhat alien beings, who entertain us by creating instead of destroying.