Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted took the action to the circus. I may have been outgrowing the childish antics of the franchise, but I loved the New York animals too much not to see where their journey lead them. Can’t say I was expecting them to end up in Europe with a strong circus theme. It’s the reason why I wasn’t even sure if I liked the threequel when I first saw it. Until I realized the first two Madagascar movies were just as over-the-top. Europe’s Most Wanted fully embraces its cartooniness and became an unexpected hit with critics. Putting the Madagascar trilogy in a unique position of being a DreamWorks Animation series that gets better with each passing movie. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andy Richter all return for what turned out to be the last Madagascar. The titular island is long gone by now and the gang couldn’t stay away from New York forever. Even though Escape 2 Africa really made it seem like Africa was their perfect home. Instead Alex is once again homesick for New York. It feels like a minor retcon considering his parents are nowhere to be seen.
When the penguins fail to return, Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, King Julian, Maurice, and Mort all follow them to Monte Carlo. The only conflict between Alex & Marty is their role as leader, but Melman & Gloria are still a loving odd couple. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private are living a wealthy lifestyle with the chimps posing as a human. Madagascar and Africa were one thing, but Europe is clearly no place for wild animals. The franchise’s strongest villain is the psychoic animal hunting Captain DuBois voiced by a French Frances McDormand. DuBois and her band of animal control agents ruthlessly chase down the animals in a sequence that throws out all laws of physics. Their only hope is hiding out with a European circus. I’ve never been to the circus myself, but I must admit it brings a delightful flavor to the movie. The new characters include Bryan Cranston as the Russian tiger Vitaly, Jessica Chastain as the Italian jaguar Gia, and Martin Short as the Italian sea lion Stefano. The penguins maintain their cover by buying off the clowns and ringmaster, leaving animals as the sole act of the circus. The only problem is the circus turning out to be terrible.
Vitaly lost his passion for performing in an impossible ring jumping act and the rest of the circus sort of fell apart. So Alex helps them all to believe in themselves again. Gia becomes a love interest who performs in a trapeze act with Alex, Stefano lives his dream to shoot out of a cannon, and Julien humorously falls in love with a bear on a tricycle. The successful circus performance is a dazzling computer animated number full of bright colors set to Katy Perry’s “Firework.” Their passion rubs off on the New York animals and they realize this is their home all along. I guess it’s a fine compromise between living with animals and their life as entertainers. It took 7 years, but Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman finally returning to the zoo isn’t exactly what they were expecting. The animals are locked in fences and DuBois attempts to kill Alex. The climax is the entire circus flying in to help with a colorful display of acrobatics. Followed by the gang singing a catchy mashup of “Afro Circus” blended with “I Like to Move It.” Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted wasn’t the direction I was expecting, but it’s too much of a spectacle to ignore.
Preceded by: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa