A Whole Lotta Commotion: A Review of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

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Rating: Two out of Four Stars

I still remember seeing the first “Madagascar” in theaters long ago. Though not a great movie, it was a cute film that had charm and some good laughs to push it along. Then someone decided that the series was not wacky enough and each entry since then has been trying to get progressively louder and goofier. Along comes Madagascar 3, the loudest and goofiest of the bunch.

Some time after the second film, the Madagascar gang travel to Monte Carlo to rendezvous with the Penguins and return to New York City. When trouble ensues, they find themselves accompanying a struggling traveling circus while outrunning a crazed animal control officer as they plan a way to return home. You should never come into a “Madagascar” film for plot and here is no exception. The moments focused on story development are by far the weakest, sending the film into trite animated movie clichés. There are also too many characters to follow, with some of the best from previous films like the Penguins being underutilized. It does not help that the lead characters are the least interesting or developed, making it hard to care for their problems. It is cotton candy storytelling, so you either enjoy it or you don’t.

Admittedly, some of the zaniness in “Madagascar 3” pays off. There are some welcomed new characters in the mix, like the disgraced Russian tiger with a very entertaining back-story and an alluring cheetah for Alex the Lion to flirt with. A good chunk of one-liners and sight gags elicit laughs every so often. And there is a visually stunning circus set piece right before the third act, which will prove whether you accept the movie’s implausible elements or not. It helps that the 3D is absolutely incredible, giving an added element of fun throughout!

That said, there are plenty of times the zaniness just comes as overkill. The villain character, played by an unrecognizable Frances McDormand, is just too bizarre for the film’s good. Every action she does is overblown and obnoxious even for the “Madagascar” universe, particularly the surreal “Inception” inspired bit that is zany but not very funny. The film’s pacing is so fast and loose that it’s hard for the few good jokes to stick. Also, save for Byran Cranston and Jessica Chastain as the tiger and cheetah respectively, a lot of the actors try to overcompensate their flimsy roles with overacting. This is a problem for actors with potentially grating voices like Chris Rock, Sasha Baron Cohen and Martin Short. And as good as the visuals can be, it can become sensory overload with so many colors at once.

“Madagascar 3” is not without redeeming moments, but it is definitely light entertainment. Kids and casual moviegoer will get their fun out of it, but there are better animated films coming out this year.

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