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The frozen chosen

They're cute, they dance, they're always elegantly decked out. But isn't it time for another kind of bird to steal a march?

How, precisely, did penguins become the Samuel L. Jacksons of the movie animal kingdom? Ubiquitous, constant, working more than perhaps they should.

Every dog has its day. Penguins have all the movies. They're the frozen chosen.

In two years, these flightless sea creatures with a proclivity toward formal wear have become the go-to birds in Tinseltown, the hot dogs of the avian empire, waddling their way toward global cinematic domination.

They've wandered far north of the Southern Hemisphere, attracting two Oscars and more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office, which is a lot of fish.

Now, penguins are swimming their way back to the theaters June 8 for yet another movie, Surf's Up, the aquatic critters' fifth star vehicle since 2005.

Unlike crows, penguins never settle for second billing.

Penguin movies have become more pervasive than westerns, period pieces, successful romantic comedies and, tragically, George Clooney movies.

The only movies more omnipresent than penguin pictures are Samuel L. Jackson projects and bad movies, which are frequently one and the same.

Jackson has worked in a penguin movie, as the narrator of Bob Saget's 2006 documentary parody, The Farce of the Penguins. When a phenomenon has been parodied with Jackson, it's time to jettison that trend.

Surf's Up follows a colony of you-know-whats hanging 10 at the Penguin World Surfing Championship because, presumably, all the other bird breeds were busy.

If you're turning to a bestiary for contestants in a surfing championship, why not go with pelicans (acrobatic), sandpipers (nimble), loons (operatic) or albatrosses (dramatic)? Were they too busy or represented by the zoological equivalent of agent Ari Gold?

Surf's Up features Jeff Bridges as a penguin beach bum called The Geek, possibly an homage to his indelible turn as The Dude in The Big Lebowski.

An animated version of Bridges is criminal, as absurd as an animated version of Nicole Kidman.

Which happened in last year's penguin movie, Happy Feet. See? Those two-toned fowls are merciless. Pandas and skunks, equally fetching in two tones, should consider a class-action discrimination suit.

The long march of the penguins began in 2005 with Madagascar, the story of four penguins escaping from the Central Park Zoo, already displaying an innate talent for criminality. The movie earned $193 million domestically and more than half a billion worldwide.

Two months later, the documentary March of the Penguins opened, eventually winning an Oscar and grossing $77.4 million domestically ($127 million worldwide) from an $8 million budget - less than it costs for Jack Nicholson to scowl in a few frames.

The long March begat Farce of the Penguins, which begat Happy Feet, dancing penguins who tapped their way to yet another Oscar and almost $200 million domestically, $384 million globally.

Why penguins? Because they work cheap. They're not demanding, which you can't say about shitzus. They arrive on the set already groomed. They aren't looking to Armani for formal-wear handouts.

Enough is enough. Yes, they're cute. But we've overloaded on cute. Next time, think duck.