Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted offers nonstop, wit-filled laughs
Featuring the voices of Ben Stiller, Frances McDormand, Chris Rock, and Martin Short. Rated G.
Having established the characters back in 2005, the makers of Madagascar went further, in their 2008 follow-up, into the African back story for Alex the neurotic lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the chatty zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the shy giraffe (David Schwimmer), and the hippofabulous Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith). Now there’s really nowhere left for the exiled critters to go but nuts. Happily, they do.
Codirectors Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Madagascar voice veteran Conrad Vernon have fashioned a tale that is closer to the manic fluidity of Bugs Bunny cartoons than to what Dreamworks Animation usually delivers. And the sharp 3-D design really does enhance the lunacy of the ’toons.
Stiller continues his on-screen relationship with Big Apple enabler Noah Baumbach, who directed him in the kvetchy Greenberg and who also wrote Fantastic Mr. Fox. The highly, um, dubious plot Baumbach developed with Darnell offers nonstop, wit-filled laughs and lots of offbeat throwaway lines in a breakneck journey from Africa to Monte Carlo, where the penguins, monkeys, and one egomaniacal lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen) have figured out how to fleece the casinos.
Our main quintet still pines for the Central Park Zoo. Once reunited with their unreliable travelling companions, though, they’re distracted by a viciously anti-animal gendarme, with Frances McDormand here channelling Edith Piaf by way of Inspector Jalvert. Alex’s crowd must take shelter with a travelling circus run by some real animals. This gives Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, and Martin Short the chance to do highly memorable work as, respectively, a high-wire jaguar, a knife-throwing Siberian tiger, and an IQ-challenged sea lion.
Short’s fractured Italian accent is the most outrageous stereotype among many as the tale shoots from Rome to London and then Manhattan. But there was only one part of the best Madagascar yet that I really didn’t like: it ended.
Watch the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.