Review: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
PLOT: Still trying to find a way home to the Central Park Zoo, Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria find themselves on the run. When they end up joining a traveling circus, they realize that maybe their home is not where they thought it to be. Circus, circus, afro, afro!
The gang is back and ready to “move it, move it” thanks to the charming ego-centric lemur King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his wacky friends in MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED. It may take a little time to get this cat a purrin’ as a vindictive Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) hunts down Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and of course Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). Yet once they end up seeking shelter with a traveling circus, MADAGSCAR 3 suddenly feels more gleefully entertaining than it ever has before.
Part 3 still finds Alex and friends trying to get back to the Central Park Zoo where they belong. When they feel that they have been abandoned by the scene stealing penguins (Skipper is voiced by co-director Tom McGrath), they are off on another adventure searching for their humble abode. Yet things get dicey when the previously mentioned Captain DuBois seeks to make the lion’s head a trophy. So once again, the animals are off and running. This time, they happen upon a train transporting a variety of circus animals. They include Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) and Gia (Jessica Chastain), who Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria convince to let them on the train by lying about being part of a circus as well.
One of the most colorful and entertaining moments occurs when Alex convinces the circus animals to be a part of the show and “perform” instead of just sitting around as window dressing. In one sequence, they all put their talents to good use and perform with Katy Perry’s toe-tapping hit single “Fireworks” blaring out of the speakers. As silly as it sounds, there is something very congenial about it all, especially when Alex convinces Gia to take a chance as a flying trapeze. Sure it is ridiculously goofy but it tons of fun as all the animals take center stage. The children in the audience were nearly intoxicated by the sugary appeal of it all.
The filmmakers have managed to improve this franchise with each sequel. As the third time does seem like the charm, it does hit a few bumps early on. For a movie with several bits of action it took a bit of time to really get to the good parts. That first half hour is slightly repetitive, even the animals themselves seem to be a little bored of the same old, same old. And while there are moments of humor which wink a knowing eye to the adults watching, they are few and far between. However there is something utterly genuine in MADAGASCAR’s lighthearted lampooning especially as the film carries on.
Even though the screening I sat through was in 2D, it was clear how much of it was meant for a 3D viewing. It is enjoyable enough however either way. Co-directors Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon are now very familiar with these particular characters. Bringing the gang to London, Monte Carlo and New York certainly gives much of the film a fresh and appealing look that jumps off the screen. Yet the circus aspect really gives it a sense of fun that will certainly entertain its intended audience. This is one of those rare occurrences where I wouldn’t have minded donning the 3D glasses just to see how extravagantly it all jumps out at you.
It may have been an average – even still enjoyable - beginning only to catch a spark as the movie played on in this third chapter. Yet MADAGASCAR 3 offers humor and heart in most all of the right places which certainly can “shine like the fourth of July.” We’ll just have to see if number four can continue to improve on this already familiar formula.