Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada-Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) are back and still very much in Africa, waiting on the scene-stealing Penguins to return with an airplane to take them home to New York. Getting antsy, the group end up following the Penguins to Monte Carlo, where scary animal hunter Captain DuBois (Frances McDormand) begins to keep track of their movements. So they all stow away on board a circus train, which they find out is heading to New York, via Rome and London. However, the only way they get to stay on board is to become performing circus animals themselves…
Never in my life have I witnessed a film with such energy; it just keeps going and going, like it’s fuelled by pure sugar and Red Bull, too giddy and kinetic to remain in one place for too long, bouncing from one character or set-piece to the next with absolutely no downtime in between. Madgascar 3 is all exploding colours with stuff constantly coming at you in 3D; if you don’t have the stamina to keep up, you’ll leave the screen absolutely exhausted.
As per usual, the centre foursome carry the story but aren’t particularly funny, leaving the laughs to come from the ever expanding cast of secondary characters; original supporters Sacha Baron Cohen’s still brilliant King Julian (who falls in love with a bear, one of the films best side-plots), Andy Richter’s Mort, and Cedric The Entertainer’s Maurice are now joined by Bryan Cranston’s circus-leading tiger Vitaly, Jessica Chastain’s sultry leopard Gia and Martin Short’s adorable sea-lion Stefano. What’s more, Frances McDormand’s Captain DuBois can now be added to the ranks of Ursula and Cruella DeVil as a great female cartoon villain.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it doesn’t seem to really be about anything; there’s no big underlying message here. There are some vague notions about “working together as a team” and “taking charge of your own life”, but they all seem pretty half-hearted compared to the work put into the visuals. While it’s not always necessary for a movie to do anything more than entertain, not having a proper lesson to give to the kids here definitely felt like a missed opportunity.