The Madagascar films never reached any of the animation masterpieces Pixar has put out (Toy Story 1, 2, 3, Finding Nemo) and hasn’t even matched the better works of DreamWorks (How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda 1&2) But they were always fun… for kids. I was eight when the first film about a group of zoo animals that get stranded on an exotic island came out and I remember liking it quite a lot. Like most people, the catchy anthem of the entire franchise, I Like To Move It Move It, was stuck in my head for weeks. Heck, I’m humming it as I type this right now. So, while the movie was perfect fun for kids, was anybody really asking for a third entry, this time in 3D? I didn’t think so. The sloppily titled Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted once again joins us with Alex, Marty, Melvin, and Gloria as they race their way through Europe trying to get home to their zoo in New York by joining a traveling circus.
Madagascar 3features a wide-ranging and utterly random group of actors and actresses as the talking animals in the film, including, reprising their roles from the first two films, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Sacha Baron Cohen. These characters are still perfectly lovable a third time around,
but you can’t help but feel their character arcs are long complete, and the personalities are starting to feel a bit tired. There’s no more that these characters can grow or make advances in their lives, so they’re stuck with the lackluster story and gags to move them throughout the plot. What I’m saying is that they are not particularly engaging anymore. The new palette of supporting characters this time around is unbelievably odd, with a tiger, some other female cat, and a sea lion joining our heroes. Voicing them is Bryan Cranston, Martin Short, and Jessica Chastain. The problem with these characters is simply that they don’t particularly matter. They aren’t memorable enough to be completely lovable or engaging and they fit archetypes we’ve seen in other animated characters plenty of times before. All in all, there’s a talented voice cast at play in the third entry of the franchise, but as they characters themselves become 3D for the first time, they start to feel a bit one dimensional themselves.
The story in this film is simple: Animals want to get home. Animals join circus to get home. And yet, you can’t help but realize that in this forced threequel, that something so simple has been turned into something so chaotic. There are inconsistencies everywhere in this script, ranging from the fact that at the end of the second one, everyone was happy in Africa. Why then, all of the sudden, almost without any explanation, do they want to go home? I guess it doesn’t matter to the five-year-old viewer who will be attracted to the talking zebra and pretty colors, but still, DreamWorks has proved that they have done work before that has appealed to all ages, so this mess has no excuse. Directed by three people and written by two, this film can’t help but feel chaotic and messy from its loud opening scene through the rest of its running time. There’s a ridiculous, annoying, and utterly bizarre villain, and little of the film makes any sense. It can only be explained as cashing in on a bunch of characters that have made money before by infusing them with current pop songs, unbelievably annoying loud noises, and an utter feeling that this could’ve been a better animated entry in 2012.
In the end, the fact that Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is bad isn’t the end of the world. In fact, I could’ve seen it coming. Odds are, I won’t remember it by the time the next film comes out, but I really do hope they end the series soon. In a time when films like Toy Story 3 and How To Train Your Dragon can appeal to all ages with a heartfelt story and lovable characters, this movie just feels like a mess.
FINAL GRADE: C
FINAL SAY: Loud and chaotic, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is an unnecessary and messy entry in a franchise that should probably just end.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted will be released in 3D/2D theaters on June 8, 2012.