NEW YORK — The holiday season turns out to be the time for the “Penguins of Madagascar” (Fox) to come to the fore – and into their own.Agent Classified, the leader of the North Wind, is featured in a scene from the movie “Penguins of Madagascar.” (CNS photo/DreamWorks Animation)

These supporting characters from previous movies in the franchise that began with 2005’s “Madagascar” take center stage in a spirited animated adventure calculated to please kids and leave parents’ minds at ease.

Comic possibilities drive the freewheeling plot of directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith’s family-friendly lark, with enjoyable silly results. But solid values are also present from the start.

Thus the film’s opening scene finds a trio of friends – take-charge Skipper (voice of Tom McGrath), analytical Kowalski (voiced by Chris Miller) and blundering Rico (voice of Conrad Vernon) – bucking the conformity and indifference of their peers to save an endangered egg.

The object of their concern – which can be read as at least implicitly pro-life – soon emerges from his shell in the endearing form of Private (voice of Christopher Knights), an eager-to-please fledgling whom the pals immediately adopt as their younger brother.

Having designating themselves a do-it-yourself family, the now-complete quartet familiar from earlier outings also decides they have what it takes to be avian spies. As it turns out, they’ll need all the undercover skills they can muster since they’re being targeted by a villainous octopus named Dave (voice of John Malkovich), whose alter ego — assumed at will – is a mad scientist known as Dr. Octavius Brine.

Dave thirsts for revenge on the penguins because their irresistible cuteness in human eyes has enabled them to replace him, time and again, as the most popular resident of this zoo or that aquarium. To wreak his revenge, Dave has developed a serum that will turn the whole species into disfigured mutants whose freakish appearance will repel the very people who used to cherish them.

Dave’s nefarious activities have drawn the attention of The North Wind, a team of self-appointed secret agents who come to the rescue of animals in need. Led by a wolf known only – due to a punning miscommunication – as Classified (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), they intervene to save the penguins. But ego and pointless rivalry soon have the two groups working at cross purposes.

Even as it trots around the globe, and indulges, now and then, in genre-typical potty humor, “Penguins of Madagascar” instills lessons about the negative effects of harboring a grudge and yearning to return evil for evil. The script, penned by Michael Colton, John Aboud and Brandon Sawyer, also emphasizes the positive results of loyalty, teamwork and cooperation.

The film contains a handful of mild scatological jokes and insults. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I – general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.