Family circus – Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted review

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – Featuring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and David Schwimmer. Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon. Rated PG. By Jess Lomas.

There’s a new expectation when it comes to animated pictures, thanks largely to Pixar’s cross-generational humour, that both an adult and child can enjoy the same story up on the screen. DreamWorks’ Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted does not fit into this mould, and whilst it provides high energy, bright colours, and lots of action for the little ones, supervising adults may find themselves checking their watch.

We pick up with Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith) in Africa, having been abandoned by the penguins and their monkey slaves who have since moved on to Monte Carlo. Desperate to return to the Central Park Zoo in New York City, the group set out to find the penguins and fly home. Their plan hits a snag when Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) sets her sights on Alex for her prized wall of taxidermy animal heads, and the plane crashes and falls to pieces. The group finds refuge in a travelling circus where they help the performers create a fresh act in the hope of winning a contract to perform in NYC; their ride home.

The new cast of wacky characters includes the temperamental tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) and sea lion Stefano (Martin Short), who is a blessed scene-stealer and saver. There’s also the mute bear Sonya, who captures the affections of King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and provides some of the movie’s more natural and charming moments.

With three directors – Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon – and two screenwriters – Darnell and Noah Baumbach – on board, the end result feels jam packed with gags and too many ideas. High energy is one thing but Madagascar 3 takes this concept to a new level, using some clever 3-D to really engage the audience. Darnell, McGrath, and Vernon are DreamWorks veterans, having a joint resume that includes Monsters vs. Aliens, Megamind, and several Madagascars, and their signature style is all over this. Surprisingly, having Baumbach onboard brought little of the wit we saw in his Fantastic Mr. Fox screenplay, and the choice of his involvement is puzzling. With plenty of sight gags, current pop tunes and exaggerated characters, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a stimulating and colourful film for kids (and kids only).

3 / 5

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted arrives in Australian cinemas September 13, 2012.

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