The ever-lovable animal quartet of Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) return for their latest adventure that sees them stranded (again) in their attempt to get back to the zoo (again). This time they find their perfect cover in the form of a travelling circus whose aim is to reach New York, but every step of the way is hampered by the Chanel DuBois, the crazed Captain of Animal Control, who is hellbent on capturing Alex and adding his head to her collection. Can the foursome evade her advancements and return to their beloved zoo in one piece?
With the first two in the franchise making a combined total of over $1 billion dollars, a third instalment was inevitable. Thankfully, Madagascar 3 carries the same charm and wit that made the first two so successful, something that many series that pass the three film mark fail to do. Narratively, it wastes no time in getting to the point: the film opens with Alex wanting to get back to New York by getting the penguins (who arguably have had the most success from the franchise in regards to getting their own TV show) to fly them back on their monkey powered plane. Of course, things don’t go to plan and this is where Madagascar 3 starts to prove that there really is still life in the rehashed story it’s trying to tell. This can almost be entirely attributed to the antagonist Dubois, voiced by Cohen brothers favourite (and wife of Joel)Francis McDormand. Her obsessive methods of capturing Alex are frequently hilarious and more often than not (especially in the finale) she appears to be a real threat to him. On the flip side, her goal of adding Alex’s head to her “prize wall” could be seen a potentially grotesque seeing as though this is predominantly aimed at children, but Screenwriters Eric Darnell and Noah Baumbach never stray too far into that dark fantasy of hers.
DuBois isn’t the only new character addition to the series – in fact, there’s a plethora of new animals, and all of them have unique personalities and back stories. The one that takes prominence though is that of Vitaly the tiger, voiced by Breaking Bad‘s Brian Cranston. His tale tells of how he once ruled the travelling circus scene with his act, until one fateful day he made a catastrophic error of judgement. Ever since, he has lost the confidence to perform. That is, until Alex & co turn up and helps him (and the other animals) find his passion. Strangely, Vitaly’s story of disappointment is one we can all relate to, and that’s possibly why it works so well at tugging on the ol’ heartstrings. The dopey but adorable Stefano the seal finds his best friend in Marty, and their scenes together are the highlight of the second act. Speaking of Marty, his “Afro Circus” routine is undoubtedly one of the standout moments of the entire franchise, not just this particular film.
Unfortunately, three of the four main characters take a back seat to Alex for most of the film. The rivalry between him and DuBois is the focal point, and that ultimately means that the other animals are seen as less important to the narrative, when this really shouldn’t be the case. This is just a minor gripe however, and in a film so full of positives, it can (and most certainly should) be forgiven.
Whilst many franchises tend to compromise on quality when they reach the third film, Madagascar 3 is proud to have reached this point. The writing is as sharp as ever, and although the story doesn’t stray far from what the other two covered, it’s told in such a way that it appears fresh and necessary. The bright colours of circus life are captured perfectly, and will keep the younger audience entertained, whilst the previously stated clever humour will appeal to parents or an older audience. In the unlikely event that we don’t see Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria again, their third adventure certifies that they will have left on a high.