Lion Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), hippopotamus Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) join the circus to escape the clutches of sinister French animal control officer Capitaine Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), hilarity ensues.
Hereís what I wrote about this film back in June:
ďIíve been a fan of the first two Madagascar films, especially 2008ís ruckus sequel Escape 2 Africa. One of the few fans, at least from a critical standpoint, I should add, neither film exactly garnering a slew of accolades. Personally, though, Iíve found them extremely pleasant and easy to watch, my involvement with the quartet of characters, lion Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), hippopotamus Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer), as well as my affinity for the cadre of selfishly creative penguins, being far more all-encompassing than I should probably admit.
All the same, it isnít like either film is an animated classic. More importantly, unlike most of the Pixar catalog and a great number of entries in the DreamWorks canon, I canít say Iíve returned to either film in quite some time, happy to let them sit in my mind as a happy memory instead of potentially ruining my enthusiasm for either by taking the time to sit through them additional times.
In other words, I didnít really think another sequel was necessary. Whatís the point? Hadnít Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, the creative duo behind the first two, already taken things as far as they could go? Sure the second film ended with a bit of a cliffhanger, but that didnít mean I truly needed to see Alex, Marty and company attempt to get back to New York and out of the African wilds. I was content, and for my part that was the only thing that mattered.
By and large, itís probably a good thing that Darnell and McGrath donít take advice from me, because in many ways they, along with new to the series co-director Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs. Aliens) and co-writer Noah Baumbach (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Greenberg), have in Madagascar 3: Europeís Most Wanted created the best film in the series so-far. For the majority of the picture this is a funny, smart and inspired adventure featuring all the old favorites as well as some niftily inspired newcomers, and Iíd be remiss if I didnít admit to smiling ear-to-ear for most of this sequelís running time.
Most, but not all. The opening sequence didnít exactly get things off on the right foot. Still stranded in Madagascar, Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman, along with King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) and Mort (Andy Richter), take it upon themselves to head to Monte Carlo to find out what the penguins and their cadre of monkeys are currently up to. This meeting is a headache-inducing mess, so wildly frenetic and out of control, so devoid of decent ideas, I almost couldnít comprehend what it was I had suddenly walked into. For a good 15 minutes I wanted to call it a day and get up and leave, the whole thing the type of Disney Channel or Nickelodeon inspired swill I have trouble believing children of today actually enjoy.
But a funny thing happens on this whirlwind trek towards doom and disaster. Darnell, McGrath, Vernon and Baumbach somehow, someway manage to right the ship. Starting with the introduction of a train filled with zoo animals, proceeding towards an international trek filled with both imagination and honestly earned emotion, the movie comes to life in a way one of the previous chapters can easily lay claim to. Without a doubt, this third entry, for all its chaos, for all its weirdly absurdist flights of fancy, easily becomes the most relatable, dare I say the most human, of the entire series, something Iíd never have expected before the movie started.
It also helps immeasurably that three of the four principal newcomers, the less, sadly, said about French animal control officer Capitaine Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) the better, are some of the best creations the folks at DreamWorks have seen come their way in quite some time. Down on their luck circus mainstays tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), leopard Gia (Jessica Chastain) and seal Stefano (Martin Short) are inspired and wonderful in all the way that counts, each of them giving the story a much needed kick in the pants it likely would not have received without them.
Iím not sure any of this means Iím going to return to Madagascar 3: Europeís Most Wanted with anymore frequency than I have its predecessors. I severely detested those opening sequences, and as much as reveled in all the subtle nuances and colorfully creative explosions of life and emotion the next two-thirds had to offer I canít say I was moved to the point of effervescent euphoria. At the same time, Darnell, McGrath and company prove there is life pumping through this animated animalís veins yet, and if the pair decide to bring the crew back for a fourth adventure Iíll happily leave my reticence at home where it belongs.Ē
Still uneven as all get out, but that second half certainly makes up for the inane stupidity of the first 30 minutes or so. Thereís some great stuff here, Baumbach, McGrath, Darnell and company delivering the goods when it matters. At the very least? The kids are going to love it, probably more than they adore the first two, and when you think about it thatís really saying something.
Madagascar 3: Europeís Most Wanted is presented on two dual-layer MPEG-4 AVC Video 50GB Blu-rays with a 1.78:1/1080p transfers.
The movie looked pretty great in 3D in theatres and as far as home 3D is concerned it looks nearly as terrific as well. Colors are strong, black levels consistent and depth is strong throughout. Itís a wonderful transfer on the part of DreamWorks and Paramount, and fans of the process will not be disappointed.
At the same time, Iíll always take 2D presentations any day of the week, and on that front Madagascar 3D looks downright stellar. Be that as it may, no matter which version is chosen, both transfers are superior, borderline reference quality, this three-disc set close to perfection as far as technical aspects are concerned.
These Blu-rays feature Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks along with French Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and include optional English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
All special features are contained on the 2D Blu-ray (with some minor carryover to the included DVD). These include:
∑ The Animatorsí Corner (Blu-ray Exclusive)
∑ Trivia Track (Blu-ray Exclusive)
∑ Get Them to the Train Game (Blu-ray Exclusive)
∑ Audio Commentary with directors Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tom McGrath Ė Strong commentary track with the directors as they talk about the filmís production, the elements introduced by co-writer Noah Baumbach and other facets that allowed them to bring it all to such colorfully energetic life.
∑ Big Top Cast (13:38) Ė Featurette focusing on the vocal work from the all-star cast.
∑ Deleted Scenes (6:18) Ė Introduced by the director, the majority of these are unfinished (as is typical for animated productions).
∑ Mad Music Mash-Up (1:00) Ė ĎAfro Circusí overload.
∑ Ringmasters (15:27) Ė A great featurettes focusing on a day-in-the-life of the three directors.
∑ Madagascar 3 Roundtable (3:48) Ė Way too short featurettes with the filmís four stars talking about what their characters have come to mean to them over the course of these three productions.
Itís a solid set of extras, a good mixture of stuff suitable for the kids and items adult fans will certainly want to take a look at.
Uneven, sure, but once it finally gets rolling Madagascar 3: Europeís Most Wanted easily contains the seriesí most inspired and raucous bits of storytelling yet. Better, kids will adore it, while adults will be amused, DreamWorks and Paramount delivering a 3D Blu-ray package worth nearly every cent of the purchase price.