Thursday, June 7, 2012
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is an unexpected, lovely and cheerful delight that features notably spectacular 3-D animation, which is no small feat given that every animated movie is released in 3-D. The colors pop, the screen has depth and clarity, and the predictable story is enjoyable enough to make this a treat for the whole family.
If you haven’t seen and/or have little recollection of the first two Madagascar movies, no worries – this film easily stands on its own. The story: Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are abandoned in Africa by those pesky penguins, who leave for Monte Carlo.
Undeterred, the foursome (inexplicably) gets to Monte Carlo, believing it’s the next step in trying to return home to their beloved zoo in New York City. But after a daring escape from an animal control officer named DuBois (Frances McDormand), Alex and friends join a travelling circus in the hope that a promoter will discover their talents and send them back to New York.
The problem is they don’t have distinct talents, but that’s one of the simple obstacles to overcome that come with the territory of a children’s movie. With the circus they befriend a tiger named Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) who’s lost his mojo, a sea lion named Stefano (Martin Short) who’s a big goof, and a sultry jaguar named Gia (Jessica Chastain) who catches Alex’s attention. Aside from the penguins, King Julien the lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice the Aye-Aye (Cedric the Entertainer) and Mort the mouse lemur (Andy Richter) also return.
All the characters have familiar and obvious story arcs, so story-wise directors Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon (yes, it is very unusual to have three directors on one movie) bring very little originality. In all other ways, however, their effort is top-notch, and the actors clearly have fun playing up their characters’ silliness. Add to this some good laughs and a cheery selection of pop tunes – highlighted by a nice use of Katy Perry’s “Firework” – and there’s never a dull moment as you watch characters you like, care about and root for.
Best of all, though, is the animation, which is bright and detailed and beautiful. In 3-D, the destructive action scenes in Monte Carlo are clear and crisp, which gets things off to a good start. From there the story moves to Rome and London, and all throughout the 3-D pops with faces, feathers, fingers and even a fish flying at our faces (in a fun way). There’s also great depth in most scenes: When the action gets high-flying in Monte Carlo, note the detailed images of the skyline, or the similarly clean skyline details and depth when Marty gets shot out of a cannon in the mountains. The animation is stunningly gorgeous, arguably more so than any other animated movie thus far.
Far from being yet another money-grab sequel, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a visually splendid, wonderful treat.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (3) • Directed by Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tom McGrath •Starring Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock • Rated PG •At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Lighthouse Cinemas.