Hacky title notwithstanding, “Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted” improves on its “Lion King”-biting predecessor with a frenetic continental adventure. Good story decisions actually provide decent closure for the saga of Alex the Lion and his former zoo-mates, though it's hard to imagine that DreamWorks would ever put the skids on the series if it continues to bring in the kids and the cash.
This time out, Alex (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) and King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) wind up in Europe thanks to the flight plan of Skipper (co-director Tom McGrath). After causing a stir at the casinos of Monte Carlo, the gang is pursued by a manic animal control officer (Frances McDormand), but soon finds cover with a traveling circus.
The new voice talent on “Madagascar 3” is top-notch, including Jessica Chastain as an acrobatic jaguar named Gia and Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” as surly tiger Vitaly. Through their new alliance with the circus stars, the “Madagascar” mainstays find new purpose and possibly a way forward after all this time pining away for their old digs at the Central Park Zoo.
McGrath and his co-directors, Eric Darnell and Conrad Vernon, keep “Madagascar 3” moving on its fast-paced travelogue, which makes up for the conspicuous lack of any real resonance from most of the story. DreamWorks proved with “How to Train Your Dragon” that it could deliver a beautiful, emotionally vivid tale worthy of chief competitor Pixar, but the “Madagascar” films are the studio's version of a “Cars” movie — lightweight and loud entertainment that skips along the surface and delivers the broad laughs.
‘Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted'
Starring the voices of: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Bryan Cranston.
(Mild action and rude humor)