Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) ☆☆☆(3/4) : Their colorful Europe adventure with circus

“Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” is a fast and funny animation which is also the most enjoyable one in the series. The series is a curious case considering its progress; “Madagascar”(2005) was a mild disappointment with some amusement, and “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” (2008) was an improvement over the previous one, and now here comes the third one which invests a lot more energy and humor into itself. The story is pretty thin, but one good thing about animation is that it can sometimes get away with that flaw, and “Madagascar 3” fortunately has a vibrant colorful style with a small heart inside for doing that job.

Just in case you have not watched two previous animation films, I will explain to you the background story in short. In “Madagascar”, four animals from Central Park Zoo in New York happened to get out of their zoo, and got themselves in trouble, and then were sent to Madagascar after the series of happenings. They are Alex the lion(voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra(voiced by Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe(voiced by David Schimmer), and Gloria the hippo(voiced by Jade Pincket Smith). In the second film, they tried to go back to New York after having some fun in the island, but their plane crashed into the safari area of Africa which happened to be their original home, so they had another adventure while the resourceful penguins from the first feature were dealing with their own trouble.

“Madagascar 3” begins at the point not so long after the ending of the previous installment. They have thought about going back to New York, but the penguins, who promised them that they would return from Monte Carlo after earning enough money for getting the plane to New York, have not come back yet. Tired of waiting for them, Alex and his friends decide to go to Monte Carlo to find the penguins. They somehow go across the Africa continent, and swim across the Mediterranean Sea, and then arrive in Monte Carlo with the lemur king Julian(voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) and his long-suffering assistants Maurice(voiced by Cedric the Entertainer) and Mort(voiced by Andy Richter). Not so surprisingly, chaos and panic ensue right after they accidentally crash into casino despite their cautions, and Alex and his friends are soon chased by French policemen on the street.

The chase scene on the streets of Monte Carlo is rapid and exciting, and it is helped a lot by the formidable presence of a ruthless villain. French Animal Control officer Captain DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand in a full-blown badass dominatrix mode, zealously wants to catch Alex for adding another new stuffed animal head to her frightening collection on the wall, which is filled with the heads of animals caught by her. With her exceptional ability to smell the traces like bloodhounds, she is determined to follow and capture Alex and his friends by any means necessary, and nothing can stop her. When Captain Dubois has to galvanize her severely wounded men in the hospital, McDormand has a hilarious showstopper moment with one of Edith Piaf’s famous songs.

Meanwhile, after managing to get away from the pursuit of Captain DuBois for a while, Alex and his friends find a temporary shelter in the circus company train after lying to the circus animals that they are from an American circus company. Vitaly(voiced by Bryan Cranston), a Siberian tiger who was once the star of the company thanks to his literally unbelievable talent to pass through very, very small rings(I am not kidding), does not like the new passengers much, but Gia the Jaguar(voiced by Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the seal(voiced by goofy Martin Short) warmly welcome them as new friends.

Alex finds that the circus company is in a very serious trouble, but he has a nice idea for all of them. They are going to manage the company for themselves(our clever penguin gangs have already taken care of human business matters, by the way), and Alex and his friends will help bring new, fresh changes to the circus. If they can impress potential promoters with their new show enough, they will be financed to go to New York for the next show.

How they create and manage and prepare for their fantastic show leaves a lot of interesting questions and holes in the plot, but anything is acceptable in the world of animation(well, what do you expect from an animation featuring talking animals?), and the makers of “Madagascar 3” imbues a lot of energetic fun to its main circus show sequence with the exuberant use of bright colors and kinetic acrobatic movements across the screen.

While talking animals in the animation usually ignite our curiosity about their relationship on the food chain in their world, the movie induces some interesting thought about interspecies romance. In previous film, we see Melman and Gloria confirmed their mutual love to each other, and we now get two interspecies relationships blossoming along the plot. While the love growing between Alex and Gia are generic at their upstairs place(after all, both are cats in a broad sense, aren’t they?), I and the other audiences got a lot of laughs from Julien’s downstairs romance with a big bear on tricycle. It was love at first sight, and they have a really good time in Rome as a romantic mismatched couple.

Although its plot is pretty predictable, I found that “Madagascar 3” is a fun animation with lots of enjoyable things for adults as well as children. The characters are lovable, and we like them as we did before, and the scene before the climax has a little poignancy when they come to see how much their view has been changed during their long journey. It is still an animation on average level a little better than previous ones, but it is a lot more entertaining than I thought.

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