Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted was not a film that I was originally excited about. I enjoyed the original, but I really hated the sequel. But after several commercials on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, I decided that it would be worth it to go to the theater and check it out. Not only is Madagascar 3 a major surprise because it's a sequel to a franchise that wasn't great to begin with, but it's also the best of the series thus far. I don't really remember the 2008 sequel, Escape 2 Africa very well, so if I point out something that I think is a flaw, but really isn't, I'll be glad to have somebody point it out to me in the comments.
Madagascar 3 picks up with the four animals Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) still stuck in Africa. The penguins, monkeys, and King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) have left for Monte Carlo to gamble and the four animals decide to travel there, get the penguins and monkeys, and go back home to New York. The four animals go and retrieve the penguins in a delightful chase sequence that has them being chased by Capitan Chantel Dubois (Frances McDormand). The destruction and action is done in a fantastic fashion. This was personally my favorite sequence of the entire film. The animals eventually end up hitching a ride with some circus animals and they must come up with an act to impress a talent scout to get back to NYC.
The first half hour is amazing and as entertaining an animated movie as you're going to get. It feels like a crime caper film and it is paced wonderfully. When the get to the circus, there are some really good things, and some things that could have been executed better. The character of Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) is handled very well, and I liked how they gave him a back story. Stefano (Martin Short) is also a character that I really enjoyed and he provided some good emotion to the story at times. I felt like the directors/screenwriters handled the character of Gia (Jessica Chastain) very poorly. We know hardly anything about who she is, and she serves no purpose to the story besides being a love interest for Alex.
The film is somewhat funny, but there aren't a ton of LOL moments. There are a few things that were pretty funny, but nothing that had me laughing really hard. The thing is, the movie doesn't really need to be funny for me to enjoy it. It had a solid plot and beautiful animation that will wow you. The part that I really felt was handled poorly was the end of the middle section. Alex has a big motivational speech for the animals to rally together and put on a show and then the film spends a good fifteen minutes with the animals practicing their acts. I think a Rocky-style montage would have been good there, and then a bit more character development which is what those fifteen minutes do in the film. The ending of the film is spectacular. A brightly animated extravaganza that is perfect for the film.
I think that Madagascar 3 is a very strong animated film. While it does have some flaws, I think that it developed the new characters very well and does a lot of good things as well. The plot is very predictable and I kept telling the person I saw it with everything that was going to happen next but it didn't take away from the entertainment value of the film. I have always felt that the Madagascar series has a darker edge to it that I think other animated movies don't have and that does show in the climax. There are some dark undertones to the plot. I feel that in some ways, its more Toy Story 3 than it is Shrek although the Shrek films can also be dark. Although I haven't enjoyed Dreamworks recent work (Puss in Boots, Megamind was ok), I had a lot of fun with Europe's Most Wanted. Madagascar 3 is a fun animated film that is the most colorful animated movie I think I have ever seen and I really enjoyed. By the way, the "Afro Circus" thing that is really prominent in the marketing only really comes into play at the end.
THE FINAL GRADE: B+ (7.8/10)