With such punchy jokes, breakneck pacing and a bankable celebrity voice cast, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a good third installment to the successful Dreamworks franchise, as it certainly won’t be the last.
If the first episode was considered tame, then Madagascar 3 is a much wilder beast. There’s no time for exposition, but considering the previous two films have raked in a combined $1 billion gross at the box office, the audience are hardly going in to this uninitiated.
Kicking off where the Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa left us, we’re dropped right into the pen of our four lovable heroes, Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith). Sick of the stale heat and isolation of continental Africa, they set off on a transatlantic journey back to their New York City Zoo home.
They take a detour over to the Mediterranean to pick up some friends first – the cunning penguins, maniacal monkeys and lethario-lemur King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), all partying it up in a Monte Carlo casino. But whilst there, the animals attract the eye of ruthless animal control officer and taxidermy enthusiast, cpt. DuBois (Frances McDormand). Tracking their tails, the animals are forced to hitch a ride with a host of circus animals, travelling across Europe before reaching their final destination: New York.
Replacing former wrting partner Etan Cohen with Wes Anderson acolyte Noah Baumbach, Madagascar 3 is probably the most comedy-packed movie in the series, but it’s also the most loud and garish. Frenetic visual vomit for ninety minutes straight, it’s perhaps the first ever CGI animated action film for young children; with one chase sequence recalling the same level of grandeur as the car-chase in Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin.
Far from being an onslaught on the eyes alone, Hans Zimmer’s original score is stuffed somewhere in-between the trashy pop soundtrack. Featuring re-recordings of Spice Girls’ ‘Wannabe’, Nelly’s ‘Hot in Herre’ and Katie Perry’s ‘Firework’ (which offends the ears on two separate occasions!).
As is often the case with such films, the supporting castare really where Madagascar 3 delights. Far from a bearded lady, Jessica Chastain is appropriately sassy as the “eastern-European” trapeze tiger Tia, Martin Short is appropriately ridiculous as the Italiano sealion Stefano. Best of all is Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, playing ringleader as the hilariously bellicose Serbian tiger Vitaly.
If Pixar movies like Toy Story and WALL-E are sweet masterworks, Dreamworks are the curators of meat and two veg entertainment, with an unnecessary extra dollop of 3-D on top. Solid, serviceable, and (ful)filling, Madagascar 3 will keep kids and parents engaged for ninety minutes, but it’s ultimately forgettable CGI fare.