Alex (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) are still in Africa, along with Madagascar lemur king Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), waiting for the squadron of on-the-go penguins, who built a plane, to come back for them. But Alex misses the crowds and decides that the gang should head to Monte Carlo to find the penguins and speed up the trip back to New York. They find the penguins — who, with the help of the monkeys, have been cleaning up at the roulette table — but call a little too much attention to themselves and are soon being chased by Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), cut-throat animal control officer. She has a space on her trophy wall just waiting for a lion head. To escape DuBois’ bloodhound-like tracking abilities, Alex and company jump on a circus train. They join up with other animals such as Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) the knife-throwing tiger, Stefano the seal (Martin Short) and Gia the jaguar (Jessican Chastain). If the circus can create a show that will win over an American promoter, the circus will be headed to New York City.
My problem with the Madagascar movies has always been that they spend too much time on rat-a-tat humor aimed at the adults — all pop culture references, very little charm. Either they’ve turned up the charm quotient or the jokiness is just bothering me less or some combination of the two. (Though, with Noah Baumbach sharing a writing credit, I suspect that the movie does genuinely have more heart.) Madagascar 3 is both its own story and a solid next chapter in the saga of these characters. McDormand’s DuBois is a perfect old-school villain — a Cruella DeVille light. While the many animals — in addition to the core quartet, there are the penguins, the monkeys, Julien and his entourage, and then the new circus performers — could have made the movie feel overstuffed, instead the movie has a Looney Toons quality. Each character adds a little something. Julien, the hyper lemur king, perhaps has the best little side plot. His romance with a bicycle-riding bear, complete with Roman holiday, is delightful.
And, most importantly, I think there is still plenty to entertain kids. There’s goofiness, there are pratfalls, there are just enough wacky sayings for kids to repeat over and over. Perhaps Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted couldn’t beat Pixar’s best films, but it is a solid entry in the family entertainment genre. B
Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon with a screenplay by Eric Darnell and Noah Baumbach, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is an hour and 35 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures.