Movie Review: Madagascar 3
The beloved former Central Park Zoo denizens and their Antarctic penguin friends who comprise the billion dollar Madagascar franchise are back, this time in 3D. As if that’s not enough to ensure a colorful, frenzied, 3D good time, they land (in the chimps’ plane) in Monte Carlo, and join up with the circus.
The story starts where Madagascar 2 ended up, with Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) stranded on the dusty plains of Africa. It’s their native land, but these New Yorkers are ill at ease, and miss their home. When the penguins and chimps fix their plane and take off to Monte Carlo for a gambling spree, the quartet decide they need to follow.
Of course, this is all an excuse to take the Madagascar crew to a whole new continent. The Monte Carlo setting is exploited for all its James Bond-invoking possibilities, including a scuba arrival and classic Bond-like car chase that’s just as funny for kids with no knowledge of 007. There’s also a light Mission Impossible reference, when Alex is about to be lowered through a skylight into a crowded casino. Of course kids have no idea what a baccarat table is—or at least, we hope that’s true. And the bizarre court-of-Louis-XIV mannequin in which the chimps hide and operate must be a complete mystery. Nevertheless, there’s enough funny business with the silly lemurs and mischievous chimps to carry the movie for the little ones.
And of course Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria are charismatic protagonists. Chased by an unstoppable French animal control agent (Frances McDormand), they jump aboard a circus train that takes them into the Alps, thanks to the mercy of a trio of circus veterans: Vitaly the Russian tiger whose pride and confidence have been wounded in a circus act gone wrong (Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad, an inspired choice), Stefano, the garrulous, emotional Italian sea lion (Martin Short), and Gia, the sexy jaguar who catches Alex’s eye (Jessica Chastain, who really is everywhere this year). From there they concoct a whole new circus act, one that takes them all the way to the bright lights of New York City and back to their home.
These circus scenes give the Madagascar creative teams license for visual bedazzlement, with fireworks, colorful tents and costumes and parades galore. Like any circus, at a certain point, I’m not sure any of it made sense any more, but it’s awfully spectacular and fun to see.