A Silly Film? Certainly, but ‘Madagascar 3′ Worth the Ride
“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” is animation comedy’s “The Raid,” a tireless spectacle whose one-dimensional quality is its strength.
The 80-plus minute film may not possess any of the emotional zeal or mature consciousness of its genre masterpieces such as “Up” or “Finding Nemo,” but its outlandish gags come at such a rapid and breathless pace that you would not be faulted for thinking the three directors — Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon — were in a medically enhanced haze, constantly trying to out-crazy each other with each scene.
“Madagascar 3” is gag-gag-gag as “The Raid” was kill-kill-kill. It is entertainment at its most primal.
The third installment of the popular DreamWorks franchise is all about excess. Character dynamics make an appearance, but they play second fiddle to a Russian circus tiger that’s able to jump through the hole of a jewelry ring, an obsessively sadistic French animal captor who licks puddles to catch her prey, a romance between the series’ signature lemur king, Julien, and a quite realistic-looking, bicycle-riding, pink-tutu-donning bear and a meeting with the Pope at the Vatican. And that’s not even a third of the characters.
Beginning its journey with an early chase scene in France that is as uproariously humorous as it is thrilling, “Madagascar 3” continuously ups the ante to where the whole movie feels like a third act in modern action-comedy with only a few pit stops along the way.
Part of the series’ signature style is setting the action in exotic locations, and this time it is various parts of Europe. Mainstays Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) begin their adventure where the last film left off, in Africa.
Bored and missing their old home, the New York City Zoo, they set out to find their friends the penguins, who are experiencing a more hedonistic lifestyle in Monte Carlo, and to hopefully return home with them.
It is a silly undertaking, especially taking into account that the foursome inexplicably manage to swim to Monaco with only one scene change while it takes a whole movie to get them back to New York. But logic is the last thing that will diminish the adventure they end up experiencing as they traverse through London, Paris and Rome alongside another eccentric collective of animals who make up a traveling circus pack.
The pack is headed by the trio of tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), jaguar Gia (Jessica Chastain), and sea lion Stefano (Martin Short), all of whom exude as many comical and rather humane eccentricities as the heroes.
The film is obviously trying to create its own niche in the world of animation with its over-the-top wackiness. So much progress has been made in this genre and plenty of ideas have already been screen tested. Even previous “Madagascar” installments have hinted at colorful zaniness in the form of scheming penguins and psychotic lemurs.
There’s nothing wrong with saying the series — though aimed at kids — makes for a stoners’ delight. That the characters and their plights never fail to feel sympathetic is a majestic bonus that makes “Madagascar” one circus for which everybody should buy tickets.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon
Starring Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer
English with Indonesian subtitles