Friday, June 8, 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

To prepare for a screening of the third installment, I decided to rewatch the first two Madagascar movies. To educate the uninitiated, the Madagascar films follow a hippo, a giraffe, a zebra, and a lion, who lived in the Central Park Zoo in NYC but somehow found themselves in Madagascar (movie #1) and then Africa (movie #2). In the third installment, the zoo animals go to Monte Carlo to find their friends the penguins, who can fly them home to NYC.

The film starts off in Africa where the second left off, and Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller, Tower Heist) is depressed and wants to go back home to NYC. For Alex's birthday, his friends Marty the zebra (Chris Rock, What To Expect When You're Expecting), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith, TV's Hawthorne), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer, TV's Friends) make him a sand castle-like replica of the city to cheer him up, but it doesn't work very well. The zoo animals can't go home until the penguins return with their plane, since the penguins took the plane to Monte Carlo. Alex decides they have waited long enough for the penguins to return, and so the animals swim (and row) to Monte Carlo themselves. The monkeys and the penguins have been taking the Monte Carlo casino for all it's worth, but Alex and his friends "rescue" them, and soon they attract the attention of an Animal Control captain, Chantel DuBois (Francis McDormand, Transformers: Dark of the Moon). The friends must find their way back to the city and avoid the Captain, and the only way to do this is to blend in - so they join the circus.

The beginning and end of this film was great, and the 3D is unparalleled; if you see it, definitely see it in 3D. It's usually in animated films where 3D can be best exploited, and Madagascar 3 doesn't disappoint in this respect. However, the middle of the film was a bit slow, with not as many action and circus sequences, and because we now have the circus animals thrown into the mix, we don't get as much "background" on the original four (Alex, Melman, Gloria, and Marty); one could say that the movie makers are assuming that the audience has already watched the first two movies, though, in which case this can be excused.

Yes, see this film, even though the middle is a bit weaker. Kids will love the bright colors of the circus and the 3D, and adults will find humor in the film where kids do not, as is custom with the Madagascar franchise. The circus animals are voiced by some great actors as well, with Jessica Chastain (The Help) playing Gia, the leopard; Bryan Cranston (TV's Breaking Bad) as Vitaly, a tiger; and Martin Short (TV's How I Met Your Mother) as Stefano, a sea lion, to name a few. If the beginning and end of the film were not as strong as they were,  Madagascar 3 may have earned a "Maybe" review from me, but overall the film is still worth seeing, and is a definite improvement upon the last film in the series, Madagascar 2.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is in theaters today, June 8th, and is rated PG with a runtime of 93 minutes. 3 stars out of 5.

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