Movie review: “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted”

Madagascar


Partner and both like animated movies, so long as they’re clever and well-made. For this reason, we don’t see many of them. 

 

 

But we both wanted to see “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.”

 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise: the stars are four animals from the Central Park Zoo – Alex the shy/showoff lion (Ben Stiller); Gloria the sentimental hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith); Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer); and Marty the hyperactive zebra (Chris Rock). The first movie took them (and a group of four paramilitary penguins) from New York to Madagascar, where they met a surreal band of lemurs led by the sublimely self-absorbed King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen); the second movie got them as far as Africa, where they dealt with their various back-to-nature issues, and in which Alex met his birth parents.

 

 

The third movie is as freewheeling and joyous as the first two, and maybe more so. Our heroes end up (don’t ask) in Monte Carlo, where they tangle with a vicious over-lipsticked ninja assassin animal control officer named Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand). They escape by hiding out with the animals of the Circus Zaragoza: a goofy sea lion (Martin Short), a broodingly angry tiger (Bryan Cranston), and a sweetly matter-of-fact jaguar (Jessica Chastain). The animals bond, and triumph over their various adversities.

 

 

But I didn’t need to tell you that, did I?

 

 

The fun of the movie is in the details. The dialogue is blazingly fast and funny. (Near the beginning of the movie, Alex the lion is romping through a model version of Manhattan. “Look!” he crows. “A street with eight Duane Reades!”) The plot twists are sharp and cleverly planned. (King Julien, the insane lemur, falls in love while in Rome, and needs a ring to seal his love. And, if you’re in Rome and want to steal a ring, who has the biggest and best ring of all?) The character development is surprisingly deep. (Vitaly, the Russian tiger, has a wonderful story arc, and his final redemption is brought about by hair conditioner. That’s a spoiler, but you’ll never figure it out in a million years without seeing the movie.) Some of the jokes are actually sophisticated. (DuBois the animal-control officer does a killer rendition of Piaf’s “Je ne regrette rien” to inspire her fellow animal-control officers, and I would love to know if that’s really Frances McDormand singing, because – if so – she’s terrific.) The animation is beautiful: there’s a chase through the streets of Monte Carlo that is spectacularly gorgeous, and I’m convinced they must have taken the animators there to get the details right.

 

 

And – I never thought I’d say this – I wish we’d seen this movie in 3D. You could see it in every scene: stuff popping out at you, characters flying through the air, sudden vertiginous angles. Maybe another time.

 

 

And here’s another spoiler-without-being-a-spoiler: there is a wonderful circus scene – all of the circus acts taking place around each other, in midair, in bright colors, dancing and doing trapeze routines, set to Katy Perry’s “Firework,” that is truly entrancing and joyful.

 

 

Can you tell I enjoyed this movie?

 

 

Go. Take the kids, and grandma, and tell your friends. Forget your troubles and spend a pleasant ninety minutes.

 

 

You won’t regret it.


 

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About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

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