out of Five
Running time: 93
Hugely enjoyable, frequently funny threequel that's easily the best film of the franchise so far, thanks to a witty script, colourful new characters, lively animation, inspired direction and some impressive 3D work, not to mention some exceptional comic timing.
What's it all about?
Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and series newcomer Conrad Vernon, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is the third instalment in the popular animated franchise. Picking up where the second movie left off, the film begins with Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) deciding to head back to their New York home. Unfortunately, a penguin-related complication sees them taking a detour to Monte Carlo, whereupon they accidentally pull off a casino heist and end up being chased by ruthless, scooter-riding animal control cop Capitaine Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand).
In desperation, the four friends (along with various penguins, monkeys and lemurs) hide out with a travelling circus in the hopes of both escaping DuBois and making it back to New York. However, first they have to win over the various circus animals, including grumpy knife-throwing tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), sexy trapeze-artist jaguar Gia (Jessica Chastain) and excitable, kind-hearted sea lion Stefano (Martin Short).
It's not very often that the third film in a franchise ends up being the best of the lot, but that's what has happened with Madagascar 3. A large part of that is due to the subtle sidelining of the series' most irritating character (Chris Rock's Marty, tellingly denied a subplot this time round), while the introduction of the likeable circus characters proves a welcome shot in the arm, thanks to strong comic performances from Cranston, Chastain and Short.
In addition, McDormand's DuBois makes a terrific villain - part Terminator, part Cruella DeVille - and her every appearance is a joy to watch, whether she's doggedly shrugging off being hit in the face with debris or singing Je Ne Regrette Rien to rouse her troops.
The colourful animation is enjoyably fast-paced throughout and there some inspired moments of direction, including the occasional joyously surreal note, such as Vitaly's circus act. Similarly, the action scenes are breathlessly exciting (especially the early chase sequence) and the 3D is used to impressive effect, particularly when it comes to Melman the Giraffe.
On top of that, a lot more effort has gone into the script (co-written by indie darling Noah Baumbach) this time round, resulting in a steady stream of very funny gags (both visual and verbal – there are some hilarious one-liners) and a genuinely exciting, emotionally engaging climax that doesn't feel the need to layer on the sickly sentimentality.
The third film in the Madagascar franchise is the best so far, thanks to a hilarious script, lively animation and strong performances from a superb comic cast. Highly recommended, even if you hated the previous films.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (3D) (PG)