The third film in DreamWorks' 'animals go wild abroad' saga is light, airy filmmaking of the most pleasant stripe.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy has finally wrapped, but there’s another multimillion dollar franchise that hits the magic number this year. Madagascar 3 may lack the epic sociopolitical ambitions of The Dark Knight Rises, but the third film in DreamWorks' 'animals go wild abroad' saga is light, airy filmmaking of the most pleasant stripe.
Like its prequels, Europe’s Most Wanted focuses on the fortunes of Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith). Back in the heady days of the original Madagascar (2005), this motley crew escaped Central Park Zoo, and has been careering round Africa ever since, generating cross-generational humour while trying, unsuccessfully, to return home.
Seamlessly picking up where the first sequel, Escape 2 Africa, finished, the film begins with our loyal troupe ditched in the desert by their erstwhile penguin and chimp chums in favour of a Monte Carlo-based get-rich-quick scheme. The fantastic possibilities presented by animation enable the four to overcome their sandy plight, though this is merely to clear the table for a host of new, more unlikely problems.
Enter Frances McDormand as animal control officer Chantel DuBois with an empty spot marked ‘lion’ above her mantelpiece and a snarl as big as her derrière. She is but one of an eclectic mix of star voices. The most impressive new addition is Bryan Cranston, who plays jaded Russian circus tiger, Vitaly. His distinctive bristly baritone makes Vitaly as complex as he is comical.
Fuelled by everything from pop culture to clever wordplay to deadpan silliness, when scenes aren’t being played for laughs, they’re being played for gasps, earned via elaborate, musical-like, set pieces. The film is neither plausible or tense, but this doesn’t matter: the combination of visual delights with sharp writing means it’s easy to enjoy each imaginative vignette.
Past Madagascars made more money than sense.
Sings with artful charm, literally.
A sugar high that inevitably fades with time.