I’ve got to add my two cents to The Other Charlotte’s rave review of March of the Penguins. It’s a beautiful movie visually and aurally, you can take the whole family, the tale of penguin love will touch your heartstrings, and as TOC said, there are no annoying Hollywood actors to see and hear. Indeed there are no actors at all–and it’s darned hard to tell the characters in this film apart! (See TOC’s “At Last: Some Actors Who Don’t Spout Dumb Political Opinions,” July 15.) “

In fact, the mating practices of the emperor penguins of Antarctica, the harshest land on earth, can put today?s American courtship and child-raising customs to shame. Penguins are completely monogamous (no commitment-phobes!), and they get together for the most important reason on earth: raising the next generation. Once mated, Ma and Pa Penguin take turns cradling their egg, and then their little one, on their feet so it won?t freeze on the ice beneath, while either Ma or Pa heads off 70 miles to the nearest ocean to fill up with fish, much of which will be regurgitated to the little one. Icy winds, blizzards, exhaustion, near-starvation: sorry, but kids come first in the penguin family, which is always a two-parent family, because penguins know that every child needs both a mother and a father.

Penguin moms and dads also realize that kids need to learn self-reliance, so they get the little ones walking at an early age and learning how to deal with their peers. But Mom or Dad are always nearby, because they also know that kids need stability. Finally, when the young penguins are old enough, their parents leave them on their own: no collect calls home, no helping out with the rent, no emergency cash wired via Western Union. Penguin kids have to be responsible for themselves.

In only one aspect does penguin family life seem less than ideal in human terms: once the kids are sufficiently grown, their parents separate, to find brand-new mates the next mating season. “Grow Old Along With Me” is not their song. But isn?t that about equivalent to the human parents who don?t get along but bravely stick with the marriage until their offspring turn adult?