I see no use in analyzing the state of children’s flicks in a lead up to discussing the latest feature film from DreamWorks Animation, so let’s just jump into the nightmare, shall we? The latest installment of the exhausting Madagascar franchise weaves a threadbare tale that begins in the African savannah where the franchise’s four main characters — Alex (Ben Stiller) the lion, Marty (Chris Rock) the zebra, Melman (David Schwimmer) the giraffe, and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) the hippo — are making the best of it but still longing to return to NYC’s Central Park Zoo. Just to complicate matters, those damn monkeys and penguins are still mucking things up and have swiped the quartet’s airplane and taken it to Monte Carlo, where they’re trying to make some quick dough, so the four protagonists set off post haste. Of course, the animals create much havoc within a casino and soon find themselves on the run from the nefarious Capt. Chantal Dubois (Frances McDormand, the only one working it), who seeks to capture them for animal control purposes.
Naturally (and much like the other Madagascar movies), the story here makes very little sense, for our protagonists evade capture by running away and joining a traveling circus where they join forces with Gia (Jessica Chastain) the sexy jaguar, Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) the knife-throwing Siberian tiger, and Stefano (Martin Short) the bumbling sea lion. But not only do the four main characters join the circus but they also (somehow) buy it too. Now they are tasked with pulling together a disaster of a tour but also earning the potential to take the show to the United States, thereby getting their asses back to NYC. It seems like an unnecessary amount of trouble for characters who somehow effortlessly managed to snorkel across the Mediterranean Sea at the beginning of the film, but whatever. The circus backdrop not only allows the story to travel throughout exhilarating backdrops but also provides ample opportunity for acrobatics, which the kids will love. Their parents, however, will not love the moment when a young child gets shoved up an elephant’s ass and never (save for his legs) emerges again.
As part of the circus troupe, the animals slowly (and I mean slowly, despite the movie’s frenetic pace) work their way back home as the picture makes stops in the Alps, Rome, and London. It’s all very pretty to look at, but perhaps I’m just a little too burnt out on countless sequels to kiddie flicks (and Ice Age 4 has yet to hit theaters, so I should pace myself here) these days to appreciate a zebra wearing an afro wig and a giraffe walking a tightrope while Katy Perry’s “Firework” blares from the speakers. Other musical selections include the Chris Rock sung “Circus Afro” and (of course) Reel 2 Real’s “I Like to Move It,” which makes its inevitable presence known on a repeated basis.
This is a lazy, purely money-making sequel, folks. In fact, Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) the lemur king utters the perfect descriptor for this movie: “I’m just an emotional whoopee cushion for you to sit on.” Another ironic gem is uttered by Alex as he wistfully appreciates a Manhattan sand castle built by his friends at the beginning of the movie: “Times Square, with its modern corporate lack of character!” That’s really the essence of the movie, for the characters show no growth or emotion that sets their experiences apart from either of the other two films. Naturally, Gia develops into a love interest for Alex while Julian falls in love with a circus bear wearing a tutu. Really, it’s best not to ask for more details on that note. The story is merely set up to move the action from place to place with no consequence or afterthought, and I guess that’s about what one should expect from a summer kiddie flick. It sure does guarantee parental tedium though.
As a movie, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is not really worth the price of admission and certainly not a 3-D premium although it will play just fine at home on DVD repeat. If your kids love the first two Madagascar movies, they’ll love this one too, but it brings nothing new to the table and is essentially like watching either of the other ones. Don’t waste your money unless you’re desperate to entertain the little ones, but considering that nothing family-oriented has hit theaters since Pirates! Band of Misfits, you may have no choice. If that’s the case, don’t worry though — it’s only a 85-minute long, fingernail-pulling experience from hell.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.