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Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
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by Jay Seaver

"Throws a lot at the audience to get its laughs."
4 stars

Given how popcorn film series have a tendency (and almost a need) to get more outrageous as they go on, it's no surprise that the line which best sums up "Madagascar 3" comes from Skipper the Penguin (voiced by co-director Tom McGrath): "No brakes? I like the commitment!" It starts out as off-the-wall as its predecessors are at the end, and keeps going with reckless energy.

It's been a while since the penguins took off for Monte Carlo, and their friends from Central Park Zoo - lion Alex (voice of Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (voice of Chris Rock), hippo Gloria (voice of Jada Pinkett Smith), and giraffe Melman (voice of David Schwimmer), along with lemur friends King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer), and Mort (voice of Andy Richter) - suspect they're not coming back. So they follow, but their plan gets them noticed by Monaco's top animal control officer, Captain Chantel DuBois (voice of Frances McDormand), who has always wanted to bag herself a lion. How does a group of wild animals on the loose in Europe escape? Well, there's this run-down circus that also has its eyes on New York...

Gag-wise, the start is not exactly promising, as it turns out that old-age makeup gags are even lame with CGI cartoon animals, when there's no actual old-age makeup. Once the movie gets to Monte Carlo - which it does with far more speed than explanation, which, honestly, is appreciated - it goes for gleeful slapstick right away, upping the ante on absurdity every minute or two, mixing in banter that's just as fast-paced as the physical comedy. Even when the movie slows down a little toward the middle, its jokes still hit at an impressive rate of success, still doing things that will likely make adults grin without hurting the momentum for kids. DuBois, in particular, is a wonderful invention; a villain as broadly funny and ridiculous as the talking animals who is still an adversary worth watching out for.

That's not the only clever move the script makes. It's not transcendent, but in their whirlwind of energy, Eric Darnell (one of three co-directors) and Noah Baumbach manage to get the characters somewhere I hadn't expected them to reach for another sequel or two, sneaking in a message about growing up and leaving home that less enthusiastic filmmakers might have made much more bittersweet or maudlin. They're confident enough to make a recurring joke work by not paying it off, and while many comedy movie franchises will have the broadest characters take over, the directors show admirable restraint with Sacha Baron Cohen's wacky King Julien (perhaps even hinting that they'd be rid of him if they could) and the penguins.

As celebrity voices go, Cohen and company are fine. Stiller, Rock, Smith, and Schwimmer are there to play Stiller, Rock, Smith, and Schwimmer characters, and they do pretty well there. The rest of the returning cast is similarly reliable, with Frances McDormand suitably crazed as DuBois and Bryan Cranston impressively gruff as tiger Vitaly.

The movie looks great. DreamWorks was an early and enthusiastic adopter of 3D at the start of its twenty-first-century revival, and they make great use of it here, whether setting the scene, making flying sequences look good, or throwing things at the audience. I suspect that even in 2D, the action is crisp and clear, with plenty of detail while still making things look clear, even during the eye-popping circus sequences seemingly designed for sensory overload. The design work isn't bad, although the design of the new characters seem to be somewhat less "Little Golden Book" than "action figure-ready" this time around.

That's the usual cynical knock on DreamWorks's animated films, and while likely true enough, it's not entirely fair: "Madagascar 3" is nice-looking, energetic, off-kilter, and most importantly, funny. It maintained a silly grin on my face for the better part of an hour and a half, just like it set out to do.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20349&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/11/12 21:37:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Festival de Cannes For more in the 2012 Festival de Cannes series, click here.

User Comments

4/06/14 KingNeutron Funny and well-thought-out from beginning to end. I laughed 5 stars
5/27/13 dr.lao Evidentally the first two movies weren't abrasive and obnoxious enough 1 stars
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  08-Jun-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 16-Oct-2012


  DVD: 16-Oct-2012

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