Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks)
Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.
Starring (voices of) Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Frances McDormand, Bryan Cranston, Martin Short, Jessica Chastain, Paz Vega, Tom McGrath.
Written by Eric Darnell and Noah Baumbach.
Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon.
When it comes to animated feature franchises, Dreamworks has become quite the player in the past decade. Beginning with Shrek, the studio has ramped its profile with the success of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. Madagascar 3:Europe's Most Wanted is the third (and perhaps final) chapter in the saga of four zoo animals out to see the world.
Ben Stiller voices Alex the Lion, Chris Rock is Marty the Zebra, Jada Pinkett is is Gloria the Hippo and David Schwimmer is the hypochondriac giraffe Melman. The story picks up as the group waits patiently for the return of the crafty penguins (whose leader is voiced by co-director Tom McGrath), who left for Europe in 2008's Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa. When it becomes obvious that the penguins left the group hanging, they decide to strike out on their own to find the sneaky birds and their chimpanzee minions. Inexplicably, the group apparently snorkels across the Mediterranean Sea to meet up with the penguins in hope of enlisting their aviation abilities to get them back home to New York. Tagging along (of course) are the ring-tailed lemurs King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen), as well as his devoted mates Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) and Mort (Andy Richter).
Shortly after their arrival, the group encounters a mean-spirited animal control officer named Dubois (Frances McDormand) who begins to chase them across Europe. The animals take refuge on a circus train, where they convince the animals that they are seasoned big-top performers.
As the escaped zoo animals dodge Dubois, they help the circus animals learn a new kind of showmanship, after years of sagging ticket sales. The only hope for the circus' survival is a successful London audition in which an American promoter might sign them up for a U.S. tour. Alex begins to question whether a return to the zoo is the best thing for him and his mates, as he develops feelings for Gia (Jessica Chastain), an attractive circus leopard.
Madagascar 3 is a worthy sequel to its predecessors, albeit a little less enjoyable. While the first two installments focused on Alex's animal nature and family issues, the third installment's main conflict is a little more narcissist, with a resolution that feels a little too "show-biz" oriented. Not exactly deep stuff, but fun nonetheless.
Kids will enjoy Madagascar 3, and there's still a little comedy gas in the tank for adults.