The Madagascar franchise has always been a strange one to me. It’s never been as consistently funny as the Shrek series, have the likable main characters as Ice Age, the toe-tapping dance numbers of Happy Feet or a tenth of the charm of any Pixar film, but somehow it’s done well enough to warrant a third installment.
Turns out DreamWorks Animation made the right decision answering the call of the wild one more time as Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is not just the best one of the series by far, but one of those rare movies that are magical for the entire family.
Series veteran Eric Darnell teams with Noam Baumbach (The Fantastic Mr. Fox) on screenwriting responsibilities and the pair crafts an inspired script as Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) want to leave Africa and return to their former home at the Central Park Zoo.
Their plan to fly home with the military-precise penguins and sophisticated chimps goes awry after they encounter top animal control officer Capt. Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand). DuBois is a refreshingly over-the-top villain who won’t rest until she mounts Alex’s head on her wall. She runs through walls and has an unerring aim with her deadly tranquilizer gun. She gives the film a sense of energy that the previous films lacked and gives the animals a reason to want to go home beyond just missing the zoo.
The gang ditches DuBois by joining a traveling circus, where they meet Vitaly, a Russian tiger (Bryan Cranston), Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the sea lion (Martin Short). Alex and company encourage their fellow performers to re-embrace their greatness to put on an unforgettable show in a tremendously imaginative sequence set to Katy Perry’s“Firework” that makes excellent use of the film’s 3D format.
It may have taken awhile, but the creators have found the perfect formula to really make the Madagascar franchise work and this installment should definitely be on every family’s must see summer movie list.