The first voice you hear is that of Werner Herzog. The pre-credit dismembering of March of the Penguins is enough to make one believe that Dreamworks may have finally produced a product to rival Pixar. (Either that, or Herzog wrote his own dialogue.) But it’s all downhill once the credits roll and the villain in the piece (John Malkovich, slumming) goes from a hydrocephalic, harshly designed mad scientist to a phosphorescent, circle-upon-circle purple octopus, the plush toy variation of which is poised to be a big Christmas seller at Toys ‘R’ Us. Some of the jokes amuse — our deranged villain has been known to support NPR pledge drives — and a few of the countless attempts at executing sight gags connect. But for all their passable attempts to give the film a little directorial pizazz, franchise co-creator Eric Darnell and The Bee Movie’s Simon J. Smith appear content to pass the time dispensing pop-culture references, punny celebrity name-dropping, and cartoon special effects more befitting a “live-action” Michael Bay slumber party. 2014. S.M. (2014) — Scott Marks
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