At this point, audiences know what to expect from this franchise, and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted doesn’t pull too many punches when it comes to gags, obligatory childhood lessons, and that ridiculous Lemur and his trademark Reel 2 Real song and dance. What this installment does manage to do is up the ante in pure spectacle, embracing color, sparkle, and rainbow afro wigs to create a 3D extravaganza that’s sure to entertain the wee ones in the audience.
Our celebrity-voiced foursome returns with Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), still trying to find their way back to New York, this despite appearing happy in Africa at the end of the second film. As the title suggests, they end up in Europe, ruthlessly pursued by Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), an animal control officer with the bloodlust of Cruella de Ville and the powers of Wonder Woman. The group ends up hiding out with an all-animal circus troupe, and attempts to use their new found friends as their ticket back to America. You can probably guess the rest (it involves a certain Canadian circus phenomenon).
As with the previous two films, there are definite bright spots, namely the penguins (Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, and John DiMaggio), whose spy sensibilities and penchant for witty quips make them a franchise highlight (there’s a reason they headlined the first DreamWorks TV show). The new circus characters are a mostly welcome addition, including Vitaly, a Siberian Tiger with a secret past (Bryan Cranston), Stefano, the sea lion (Martin Short), and Gia, the jaguar (Jessica Chastain). These characters breathe some new life into the franchise, and make it a more successful sequel than the previous installment. Regrettably, King Julien the Lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen) continues to “move it, move it,” making his fair share of obnoxious appearances here, with a weird and slightly perverted storyline that just adds to my loathing of his character.
If Madagascar is essentially an elastic, hijinks filled animated franchise, then Europe’s Most Wanted is at its best. The gimmicky 3D that would be abhorred in more adult fare is done to perfection here and not only looks good but actually compliments the opulent vibe of the film and its story very well. I usually dislike the use of popular music in animated films, but they make appropriate use of it in the film’s more climactic scenes.
Overall, this isn’t a film I would run out and see as an adult, but it’s well worth taking the kids (especially if you enjoyed the previous films).
Madagascar 3 opens today in Philly-area theaters.