After being well-received in the US earlier this year, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) finally gets its UK release this week. Not for nothing has the animated franchise grossed over a billion dollars, and the latest energetic instalment deserves to be just as successful as its predecessors. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) and co are still itching to return to their home in NYC. Tracking their penguin pals to a casino in Monte Carlo, they soon find themselves on the run from the persistent French captain Chantel DuBois (fantastically voiced by Frances McDormand).
Taking refuge in a travelling circus, the gang must impress an American talent scout if they ever hope to return to their beloved zoo. A manic chase through the streets of Monte Carlo in the opening act – the first of three stand-out set pieces – is the perfect example of the Madagascar series at its best; frantically paced action, with visual and verbal gags hitting thick and fast. DreamWorks veterans Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon rarely slow things down as our characters flit from continent to continent at logic-defying speed over a snappy 90 minutes.
The animation is largely excellent – particularly in the circus sequences – and the colourful, vibrant visuals look especially impressive in 3D. However, although there are many liberties you can take regarding the laws of physics when it comes to animated films, there are moments where the gambit doesn’t quite come off.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the Madagascar series is its wealth of great characters, brought to life once again by a witty script and an enthusiastic cast. Alex (Stiller) and Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) are their usual charismatic selves, whilst Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) are also kept busy with their own arc. The fan favourite penguins are also back with some of their best espionage work yet (they will be getting their own spin-off movie in 2015), and there are also laughs to be had with Sacha Baron Cohen’s Julien. Along with McDormand’s DuBois, Vitaly the lion (Bryan Cranston), Gia the cheetah (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the sea lion (Martin Short) also add a welcome freshness to the franchise.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a thoroughly entertaining animated flick that both grown-ups and little ones can enjoy, and it proves that there’s still plenty of life left in this franchise. If this is the final instalment of the series, at least it’s ended on a relative high note.