Oddball and the Penguins review: lovely, old-fashioned family entertainment

The penguins are cute, but the big fluffy sheepdog steals the show in this delightful Aussie drama

Oddball and the Penguins
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Director: Stuart McDonald
Cert: G
Genre: Family
Starring: Shane Jacobson, Coco Jack Gillies, Sarah Snook, Alan Tudyk, Deborah Mailman, Terry Camilleri
Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins

On an appropriately little island off the coastal port of the coast of Warrnambool, a colony of little penguins has been brought to the brink of extinction.

This is bad news for local ranger Emily (Sarah Snook), his young daughter, Olivia (Coco Jack Gilles) and the girl's grandfather, Swampy, a chicken farmer played by – no better man – Kenny star Shane Jacobson and a classic fair dinkum' Aussie archetype.

Perhaps Emily and Olivia will have more luck and opportunities in New York with mum's new American beau Bradley (Firefly's Alan Tudyk)? Or maybe, just maybe, Swampy's clumsy canine companion Oddball – a big Maremma fluff-ball with a penchant for literally and figuratively upsetting apple carts – will perform unlikely heroics and save the flightless birds.

Typically scary phrases like “environmental-themed drama” and “based on a true story”, may pertain, but fear not, lecture-dodgers.


While the film does make the mistake of paying too much attention to the film's contingent of adult problems – we never see Olivia without a parent or guardian and we could do with more waggeldy tail – but Oddball and the Peguins is never less than delightful.

Damian Wyvill's handsome cinematography and the movie's big-hearted performances compensate for occasionally evident budgetary constraints. The film has already taken more than $10 million in its native Australia. It's not exactly this year's Babe. But it is a lovely, old-fashioned family entertainment.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic