‘Penguins of Madagascar’: A happy feat of action, comedy

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All those who loved those delightful “Madagascar” films from DreamWorks Animation undoubtedly will be charmed and entertained by the first spinoff from the original three movies — this one focused on the previously secondary penguin characters.

From the opening frame right up to the whirlwind finale, you will be treated to nonstop action, clever dialogue and quite a bit of zany energy. If I’d fault anything about this fun romp, it’s that the filmmakers tried to jam-pack too much into one movie.

It’s not surprising the action launches in Antarctica, where we see those adorable flightless birds waddling along in typical lock-step fashion — all being filmed for a documentary whose director is amusingly voiced by none other than famed director Werner Herzog, who made the Antarctica film “Encounters at the End of the World.”

Related: Cumberbatch, Malkovich talk up ‘Penguins’ voice work

Our renegade penguins are a mold-breaking trio that includes leader Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller) and Rico (Conrad Vernon), who chase down a runaway egg that hatches, producing the quickly named Private (voiced by Christopher Knights).

We then are off on a fast-paced journey that leads to the world falling so much in love with penguins and their innate cuteness that they are targeted by Dr. Octavius Brine — really a once-famous octopus named Dave, bitterly upset for being supplanted by the penguins in zoo-goers’ affection. The adventure takes us from Antarctica to Venice to Shanghai and New York. Not only is the action nonstop, but so are the jokes, ranging from quick quips to insider references that film lovers will enjoy.

Special note should be taken of the added voice talent of John Malkovich as Brine and Benedict Cumberbatch as the undercover agent wolf named Classified, who add much droll humor to the whole shebang.

Once again the “Madagascar” team have come up with a winner — a nice way to kick off the Thanksgiving and holiday filmgoing experience for the whole family.

[s3r star=3/4]

DreamWorks Animation presents a film directed by Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith and written by Michael Colton, John Aboud and Brandon Sawyer. Running time: 92 minutes. Rated PG (for mild action and some rude humor). Opens Wednesday at local theaters.

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