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“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

June 2, 2012

For me, a person who really didn’t care for the first two “Madagascar” films, the impending release of a third outing with NYC zany zoo animals didn’t put me on the edge of my seat of anticipation. Having said that, after seeing “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” to my utterly sudden surprise I found myself in absolute wonder and completely entertained. Its colorful, fast paced, and extremely funny; qualities that the previous movies lacked or didn’t have enough of. The story is closer to home, being that it’s all about our animal pals returning to New York, finally!

Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) are still trying to get back to the Big Apple and their beloved Central Park Zoo, but first they need to find the penguins. The penguins bravely ventured out of Africa to their newest hotspot destination…Monte Carlo. Alex and the gang make their way to the penguins where they attract the attention of Animal Control after crashing a party in the casino they’re hanging out at. Joined by the penguins, King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his royal co. (Cedric the Entertainer & Andy Richter), and the monkeys, everyone makes an elaborate escape from the vicious French animal control officer, Madame Dubois (Frances McDormand). How do a lion, zebra, hippo, giraffe, four penguins, two monkeys, and three lemurs travel through Europe without attracting attention? They join a traveling circus; headlined by an angry Russian tiger (Bryan Cranston), an average (or below) sea lion (Martin Short), and beautiful leopard (Jessica Chastain), Alex and friends make new pals and learn that no matter who or where you come from, family stays together.

The voice talents increase to an all time high adding the likes of Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain, Martin Short, and Frances McDormand. Out of the bunch it’s McDormand who leaves the best mark as the terminator-like/indestructible Officer Dubois. She’s got this crazy animalistic quality that’s scary and hilarious all at once. How she detects where the animals go is bizarre to say the least, but very creative for story purposes. The main reason she’s going after Alex and the gang is she literally wants Alex’s head on her wall with the rest of her collection of doomed creatures she’s come into contact with. To Dubois, a lion’s head would be the ultimate prize of her career, and she will stop at nothing until she gets Alex.

The visual aspect of the film is stunning, and the first animated 3D feature of the year to utilize the 3D properly. Sure, it’s gimmicky, but in a sense that’s what was needed for this film. The past “Madagascar” films came off as more of spoof to traditional animated films, with it’s off color humor and its crafty subliminal messages, so now that the third one returns in a generation where 3D is the biggest thing, they really had no choice but to make the best our of it and embrace the visual possibilities. One scene that comes to mind is around the beginning where everyone makes this elaborate escape out of Monte Carlo, by far it’s one of the best visual sequences in an animated this year or even in the past few years. It actually reminded me of the chase scene in 2011’s “Adventures of Tintin”, only done in a more Looney tunes fashion.

The movie does tend to hit some narrative pit falls here and there; how exactly did Alex and everyone in Africa escape to Monte Carlo, where’s the journey? I’d like to know how they managed to make it from Africa to Monte Carlo without breaking a sweat. They showed it in the last two films, so why not here? Of course I’m being picky, but it’s that kind of lack of storytelling that irks me. Be that as it may, I still enjoyed the movie ten times more than I did with both previous films combine, however I did enjoy the first movie a bit, but not by much compared to this movie. “Madagascar 3” is the first animated feature this year that never seems to fail from beginning to end. Kids will get a kick out of it, and there’s enough lightly sprinkled crude humor for the parents to contempt with.

3D GRADE: A

MOVIE GRADE: B+

OVERALL GRADE: A-

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