June 12, 2012

MOVIES: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, & Conrad Vernon, 2012)

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted does a nice job of putting its characters in a new situation and giving them some amusing new friends. It's a pleasant movie.

Our four heroes -- Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer -- remember when Friends was still on, and David Schwimmer didn't look quite so much like the odd man out in that lineup of bigger names?) -- find themselves in Monte Carlo, still trying to get back to their home at the zoo in Central Park.

A determined animal control officer (Frances McDormand, doing a magnificently broad Fronnnnnch accent, and even getting to sing "Je ne regrette rien") is after them, and they're forced to join up with a decidedly low-rent circus in order to get away.

That's where we meet our other new characters. There's Vitaly, the bitter, melancholy Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston); Gia, the sexy jaguar (Jessica Chastain, because you're not allowed to make a movie anymore without her); and Stefano, the friendly, dimwitted sea lion (Martin Short, much funnier as a disembodied voice than he ever is when he's actually on screen).

There's nothing terribly surprising or innovative here, but the jokes are reasonably funny, the voice performances are great fun (especially McDormand), the characters are given a bit more depth than you might expect, and there are a few lovely moments of animation, most notably an abstract representation of the circus's performance, set to Katy Perry's "Firework." The grand climax would be a fitting end for the series, but there's certainly room to go on to round 4 (and judging from the box office take, that seems likely).

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