MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED
*** (out of 5)
June 8, 2012
Ben Stiller as ALEX
Chris Rock as MARTY
David Schwimmer as MELMAN
Jada Pinkett Smith as GLORIA
Sacha Baron Cohen as JULIEN
Frances McDormand as CAPTAIN CHANTEL DUBOIS
Bryan Cranston as VITALY
Jessica Chastain as GIA
Martin Short as STEFANO
Directed by: Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tim McGrath
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
So it seems, by revising my reviews of the previous “Madagascar” movies to prepare to write this one, I don’t have as good of a memory as I thought. I recall really liking “Madagascar” but really disliking “Madagascar: Back 2 Africa.” It turns out that I rated them almost identically. Apparently I liked the second film more than I remember, and I liked the first one a little less.
That puts my feelings for “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” right there in the middle, which is to say, feeling pretty much the same way about it as I did the other two.
A glowing endorsement, I know.
In this installment, the animals from the Central Park Zoo are still trying to get home from Africa. So they hop a penguin-piloted plane with the hopes of return. When the plane crashes (big surprise!), the animals cause a stir in Monte Carlo, which causes them to be tracked by the French police. Eventually, they join a failing circus with hopes that the tour will lead them back to America.
Like its predecessor, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” is a big bag of silliness. This is a tradition in the films, and the entertainment value of it relies more on the crazy antics of the characters than the actual characters and stories itself. Heck, in some ways, this movie is the silliest of the bunch. That’s really what saves it.
The film suffers from the same problems we see in a lot of animated sequels – from its own series as well as the “Ice Age” movies. All the characters worked in the first film because they made sense to the story. However, the new story doesn’t always have room for them. As a result, to keep all the characters, the script has to feed unnecessary plot elements to those like Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo. In reality, those characters would be dumped from an original film, but since this is a sequel, they are expected to be there.
Additionally, to keep things dramatic, the script also forces a conflict of leadership between Alex the lion and Marty the zebra. This isn’t much of a side-story, and it’s not quite consistent with the other films (or for pretty much any of Marty’s action in the rest of the movie itself). This reeks of stale script doctoring.
But a movie like the third installment in the “Madagascar” franchise isn’t going to make it or break it based on a brilliant, character-driven script. It’s going to succeed by entertaining the kids in the audience. For this measure, it does, and it also provides some decent humor that goes over those kids’ heads to make the adults in the audience laugh.
There are quite a few clever and outrageous moments, including an unlikely love affair with Julian the lemur and a bicycle-riding grizzly bear. These are fun. They are nothing of substance, but they’re enjoyable to watch.
The other big problem I had with the film, though, is that it seems to shift focus about half-way through. At first, it feels like it’s going to be an international action flick, like “Cars 2” (a film I quite enjoyed for the fun, childlike entertainment value). Then it shifts into a movie about a circus, a story that I found more mundane and weak.
Still, things come together with some brilliant animation near the end and a nice message at its heart. It’s not a great film, but it’ll do for a silly summer lark. Like the aforementioned “Cars 2,” “Madagascar 3” puts the cartoon elements back into the computer animated cartoon movies.
Oh, and CIRCUS AFRO!