Dreamworks Animation’s “Penguins of Madagascar” is as “cute and cuddly” as ever, and often downright hilarious. Kids will giggle at the plucky impertinence, the pratfalls and the sheer breakneck speed of the gags and the occasional gas-passing joke.
And their parents? The puns, movie references and impersonations are for grown-ups.
Even as chicks, Skipper is in charge, impulsive and riffing in that Tom-McGrath-does-William Shatner-as-Kirk voice, leading tiny Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and the newly hatched Private (Christopher Knights) into “adventure and glory like no penguin has seen before.”
“Penguins of Madagascar” is about dopey and adorable Private’s efforts to become “a meaningful and valued member of the team.” He will have his chance when an octopus supervillain named Dave (John Malkovich) sets out to rid the world of penguin-kind. But the Madagascar boys have competition in the heroics department. The well-financed, gadget-equipped North Wind inter-species commando team has a seal (Ken Jeong), a polar bear (Peter Stormare), an exotic, sexy owl (Annet Mahendru) and is led by a confident, oh-so-competent wolf (Benedict Cumberbatch).
Director-turned-voice-actor Tom McGrath’s Skipper has always been what makes the penguins funny. Skipper refuses to be humbled, contradicted or corrected. Every word out of that animated penguin’s 3-D beak is funny. And the team of writers spare no pun in giving the villain just as many zingers.
Whatever this little nothing of a cartoon comedy lacks, they’re still cute, still cuddly, still as funny as a ninja penguin could ever be.
Roger Moore reviews movies for Tribune News Service.