Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family
Directed by: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath & Conrad Vernon
Starring: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen
If you had told me at the beginning of the year, that the best animated film I would see this year would be the third installment in the already tired Madagascar series, I would probably have laughed over-loudly in your face. Yet, you would have been completely correct; Madagascar 3 is a vast improvement on the previous installments, injecting the film with a sense of fun that will appeal to both the adults and the youngsters.
It starts off almost identically to the previous effort; our 4 protagonists (Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe) are bored of their new life, this time in Africa, and decide it’s time to make a concerted effort to get back to the Zoo in NYC. Before you know it, our heroes are in Monte Carlo and deciding to help a travelling animal circus put on a performance memorable enough to have them spotted and sent to the states.
Meanwhile, the determined animal hunter Chantel DuBois hunts our protagonists, determined to add Alex’s head to her wall
After the over-familiar opening, the film changes tone by employing a narrative device that has already enhanced both Toy Story 3 & Cars 2. It gives the film an espionage spin, as our heroes infiltrate a hotel in order to reteam with those pesky penguins before all the animals are chased through the streets of Monte Carlo. It’s an opening 20 minutes that is both exhilarating and hilarious.
Kudos to writers, who have finally found the strengths of their large group of characters and play to them. The four main characters have comic potential, but are better off when driving the narrative forward than bringing the funny. The laughs predominately come from the supporting characters, notably the scheming penguins and the now infatuated King Julien, whose love-story sub-plot is the films highlight.
Also lacking from the previous installments was a memorable antagonist, another wrong written in Madagascar 3. Chantel DuBois is a gleefully exaggerated if overly stereotypical baddie that enhances the film whenever she’s on the screen. Francis McDormand’s excessive French tones complement the character’s vicious eyes, making DuBois chilling for the younger and hilarious for the older.
Add some superb visuals, including a stunning circus performance to kick off the films finale and Madagascar 3 becomes a fun, funny and exciting film that makes vast improvements on the failings of the first two.