Penguin Highway

Contrary to the infamous song lyrics, we know how magnets work (you can see the details in James Lincoln’s video “How do Magnets Work - PHYSICS!”) In our present title, precocious schoolboy Aoyama wants to know, How do penguins work? When a group of penguins are sighted in the midst of a field in a small Japanese town, then vanish as a truck transports them away from town, it’s a question that naturally presents itself, and Aoyama isn’t waiting for the anchors on the nightly news to figure it out.

A 118-minute movie based on a 2010 light novel and released in Japan in 2018, the subtitle given on the Eleven Arts website for this year’s American release, “Penguins are just the tip of the iceberg,” is well said. This is science fiction, and 10-year-old Aoyama hearkens back to American boys of the post-Sputnik era who, as portrayed in fiction, yet also in real life, dreamed of rocketry and breathed the scientific method. So when the Antarctic flightless birds appear along the route he walks to school, he naturally enlists the help of classmate, past collaborator and friend Uchida. They can get a little ahead of themselves at their age, and while it’s clear their explorations and experiments are not just play, their zeal ably, movingly captures the adventurous spirit of boyhood.