(Animated feature, PG, 93 minutes)
In the midst of my love for “Godfather”-esque movies and slasher flicks are a few animated films, and “Madagascar” is among them. The third installment of this franchise opens today and has everything that made it such a success seven years ago — but with a few extra critters thrown in.
The Fab 4 — Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) — are still trying to get back home to New York City. The penguins (my favorites out of the bunch) and the chimps have jetted off to Monte Carlo with promises to return.
However, these four know better and cross continents to find the rogue animals and get back stateside. Unfortunately, the head of animal control, Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), gets word of the herd and is quickly on their tails. Not only does she oversee the department, but DuBois also is an avid hunter. Her office is adorned with the mounted heads of various animals, big and small, but she is missing one: The king of the jungle.
In an effort to escape DuBois’ wrath, the crew finagles their way into a traveling circus. With home on the horizon and a crazed hunter on their trails, Alex and his three best friends get ready for one last adventure.
As one movie evolves into a sequel and then a trilogy, some of the fervor can be lost. This is not so for “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.” I think this installment rivals the first one. Kids will love it, and adults will feel kids all over again.
It’s in 3-D, which is perfect for this type of movie. Dreamworks rarely disappoints, so the added effect only makes it even more of a visual treat. The animals travel across Europe, and the animators captured the essence of historical sites perfectly. From the historic Colosseum to the glamour of Monte Carlo to the regal aura of London, nothing is lost.
The movie is heavy on action fairly early, so your little ones — and yourself as well — will be glued to the screen almost immediately. The creativity of the story just bursts from the screen, making it a great movie experience.
The creativity of the actors behind the scenes add to the excitement of the movie. Fans of the movies will be delighted to learn the lemurs — King Julian XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) and Mort (Andy Richter) — have returned. Next to penguins, I really love the lemurs, especially the king.
The new characters are also ones to remember. Chantel is ruthless in her quest for the lion and seems to be indestructible. With her uncanny animal-like nature, she chases them and is determined to capture her prize by any means necessary — whether airborne, underwater or on foot.
McDormand really shines in this role, as does Martin Short, who voices Stefan, a ditzy but kind sea lion. Who else could play a loveable doofus but the veteran comedic actor?
Bryan Cranston will surprise you as Vitaly, the broken leader of the circus. The tiger was once the star of the show, but now his confidence has faded and his anger continues to grow. Gia, a beautiful jaguar voiced by Jessica Chastain, tries to comfort Vitaly, but he is too stubborn to listen and believe in himself.
The bulk of the film focuses on the flailing circus. You will have fun watching how Alex and crew try to bring it back to life as well as get back to the Central Park Zoo.
Even with the abundance of new faces, the film manages to remain balanced and, most importantly, fun. “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” comes full circle from the first … but I wouldn’t mind a fourth one.