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A Visually Impressive Chase Movie But Little More

Cover I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt that 2005’s Madagascar really didn’t need sequels. This isn’t to say that the characters and settings weren’t conducive to an ongoing plot of course, so much as the cleverness of New York zoo animals suddenly trying to make it in the wild really only works once. After that, it becomes a lot more about the characters and their trials and tribulations and in the case of Madagascar, a lot of that involves slapstick and visual gags over rich story telling.

However- my misgivings notwithstanding, the Madagascar series has gone on to encompass a trilogy of films, a variety of holiday themed specials, 61-episodes of the Nickelodeon spin-off Penguins of Madagascar and somehow I doubt DreamWorks is done exploiting this one.

The third film, subtitled Europe’s Most Wanted, set DreamWorks back an estimated $145-mil and comes in at a runtime of 93-minutes. It wears an appropriate PG rating and retains a majority of the established vocal cast of the past entries.
The story, or what passes for one anyway, finds the unlikely group of animal escapees longing to return to their zoo where all their needs were met and in some cases (like Melman’s daily pharmaceutical overload) things they didn’t even really need were being met! Of course putting one’s faith in the group of militant penguins (who have developed a fondness for gambling in this one) as your means of transportation is sure to come with risks such as having a plane crash on route to NY from Africa directly over Europe just as a random example.

What results is our escapees instantly becoming fugitives in the process as well as the targets of animal control officer Captain Chantel DuBois: equal parts French femme fatale and bloodhound. Seeking refuge in a circus, the NY zoo crew meets up with a host of circus animals (including a knife throwing Russian tiger, Roman sea lion, a silent bear and an Italian Jaguar). The circus, it turns out, is in a pretty sad state of affairs and could use the showmanship of some of New York’s finest to get their act together. All the while the main characters are trying to plot a way back to the US while Captian DuBois manages to stay one step behind.

So does any of this tell you if this film is worth a purchase or rental? Probably not, so let’s take a look at some of the technical elements. The colors, complicated sets, and animatics are all top notch; so much so in fact that the (character models in particular) look surprisingly simplistic from 2005’s original Madagascar. The pacing is a bit odd, with massive action-laced chase sequences that hold the viewer’s attention by themselves but the overall plot rather crawls along with no unexpected twists or turns.

Whether or not the comedy will work for you depends heavily upon your sense of humor. There isn’t a whole lot here for the adults.. A few puns here and there, King Julien’s obnoxiousness, and a bit of pop culture reference (you have to look close though to pick up on the references to The Matrix, Inception, X-Men Last Stand and so on). If you’re big on slapstick, however, you are in for quite a treat! Falls, smacks, tumbles, collisions and tranquilizer darts are aplenty! Kids will likely enjoy the sheer over-the-top nature of the cartoony visuals more than adults will enjoy locating a segment of truly clever or thought provoking dialog.
In all DreamWorks has sort of fallen into the pattern of pumping out huge budgeted, visually intensive CG feature films that don’t commit any major crimes so much as they simply lack for substance. This seems especially true for all of the many sequels they pump out (the Shreks, Kung-Fu Panda, Madagascars and so on).

Worth a rental for sure so long as you go in expecting a lighthearted, cartoony violent, hour & a half romp that promises to get the little ones snickering. You may wish to save purchasing it to those who need it to complete their Madagascar trilogy.