“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” continues the adventures of Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) as they try to return to New York and the zoo that they once called home. They’re able to make their way from Africa to Monte Carlo, but from there, intend to seek out the help of the penguins in order to cross the Atlantic and return to the United States. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and the animals wind up having to take cover from an animal control officer in a traveling circus.
It’s got plenty of comedy and some fun actions sequences, but the bright colors and happy characters can’t disguise the fact that there isn’t a lot under the hood.
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith reprise their roles as four animals who successfully escaped the zoo, only to eventually regret their decision and wish to return home. This time, they head to a Monte Carlo casino (in a segment that is almost literally no longer than what you’ve been shown in the trailers) to recruit the infamous penguins (easily my favorite characters). Of course, a lion, a zebra, a hippo and a giraffe aren’t exactly going to “blend”, and it isn’t long before they’re being pursued by a sadistic, Cruella De Vil-esque animal control officer.
On the run with the penguins now, the madcap menagerie eventually gets cornered in a railyard, where they need to plead with train of circus animals to let them on board… by pretending to be circus animals themselves. Of course, the circus they fall in with has seen better days and is in need of rejuvenation, just as the band on the run is in need of purpose, and together they all help each other put together a fantastic show that helps everyone reach the peak potential of their inner performers.
The ride along the way contains plenty of comical pursuits, funny character beats and genuinely enjoyable animated action sequences. The cast does a solid job with the voice work, and there’s a couple of fun additions to the sprawling zoological composition of the character listing. The relationship between the Lemur king (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the newly introduced circus bear practically steals the movie.
Yet there’s always been something missing with the Madagascar movies, and I think that it’s that there’s nothing very emotional about them. Not that every children’s movie needs to have a moral or be a heartwarming flick, but these have always felt a bit… hollow to me. Unlike other Dreamworks fare such as the exceptional “Shrek” series, the two “Kung Fu Panda”s, or “How to Train Your Dragon”, the “Madagascar” films always seem to fail to connect with the soul, and this is why they drop down my hypothetical ranking of recent animated fare. Honestly if I had to rank even just the CGI generation of animated movies, it’s going to be a long time before I wind up mentioning “Madagascar”.
I found it sufficiently entertaining… it was funny, bright and certainly will do if you’re looking to take children out to the movies for a day. But ultimately, it’s a flashy but forgettable flick.