Penguins to the rescue in 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted'
A movie review of "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," a riot of splashy colors; silly 3-D gimmicks; big, broad kid-friendly gags — and those professionally pesky penguins.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted,' with the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Frances McDormand. Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon, from a screenplay by Darnell and Noah Baumbach. 90 minutes. Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor. Several theaters.
/ "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" is a riot of splashy colors; silly 3-D gimmicks; big, broad kid-friendly gags — and those professionally pesky penguins.
And for adults, there's the charming spectacle of Oscar winner Frances McDormand giving voice to her inner Edith Piaf as she belts out "Non, je ne regrette rien" — as a French-accented animal control officer.
The third film in the franchise takes those New York refugees from Africa, where they've been stranded, to Monte Carlo and other points in the eurozone as they try to get back to the Central Park Zoo.
It's running low on new ideas, but it's also funny.
We pick up the story of zoo-escapees Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) in Africa, castaways since their fellow zoo-escapees, the enterprising penguins, have taken off in their modified chimp-powered plane and promised to send help. The penguins are in Monte Carlo, where they've become high rollers — scamming the casinos, trashing the hotel rooms with feather-dusting pillow fights. ("These pillows are filled with BODY PARTS!")
Let us pause for a moment to appreciate the voice work by co-director Tom McGrath (of Lynnwood). His penguin "Skipper" has become the most reliable laugh in film animation. Every penguin scene is hilarious — they were the only characters to get their own spinoff TV series.
Alex and the gang have to make their own way to Monte Carlo. That's where they run afoul of Capt. Chantel DuBois (McDormand). She makes a terrific villain as she chases the unruly animals all over Europe after they break the bank at the casino and hide out in a circus.
The main thrust of this comedy is "How are you going to keep our heroes in a zoo after they've tasted the excitement of the circus?" The animals keep weighing which is better — a life in captivity, where they're coddled, or something more challenging.
"Madagascar" has always had that subtext, but it's been less about message and more about laughs. And "Europe's Most Wanted," despite its shrinking ambitions and slow spots, still delivers those — usually in a South Pole tuxedo.