Review: 'Madgascar 3' goes through the motions
This film image released by DreamWorks Animation shows, Alex the Lion, voiced by Ben Stiller, left, and Gia the Jaguar, voiced by Jessica Chastain, in a scene from "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." (AP Photo/DreamWorks Animation - Paramount Pictures)
Ben Stiller's Alex the lion reviews "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" so we don't have to.
Halfway into the third animated tale about New York City zoo animals on their overseas adventures, Alex tells some new circus friends that their act was not too entertaining for families "because you were just going through the motions out there."
So, too, for "Madagascar 3," which goes through a lot of motions — explosions of action and image so riotously paced that they become narcotic and numbing.
With Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, creators of the first two "Madagascar" flicks, joined by a third director in Conrad Vernon ("Shrek 2"), the filmmakers just can't stop stuffing things, to the point of distraction, into "Europe's Most Wanted."
The result: a cute story about zoo animals running off to join the circus becomes overwhelmed by a blur of color and animated acrobatics. The pictures certainly are pretty, but the filmmakers apparently are unwilling to risk the slightest lapse of audience attention, so they put the movie on fast-forward and let centripetal force hurtle viewers along from start to finish.
"Madagascar 3" opens with Alex and zoo pals Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) still stuck in Africa, dreaming of their return to New York.
Along with lemur king Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his flunky (Cedric the Entertainer), they follow Skipper (voiced by co-director McGrath) and his wily penguin cohorts to the casinos of Monte Carlo, hoping to hitch a ride home.
The journey from Africa to Europe just happens, with no explanation, begging the question, how much harder would it be for the gang to find its way back to New York on its own? But that's the sort of thinking for which the filmmakers aim to leave no time.
The critters raise a ruckus at the casino, setting vile French animal-control officer Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) on their tail. The animals may be as cuddly as ever, but the design of Chantel is creepy in an off-putting way; she's like an early take on "101 Dalmatians" heavy Cruella De Vil, discarded by Walt Disney out of sheer repugnance.
This film image released by DreamWorks Animation shows, Gloria the Hippo, voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith, left, Melman the Giraffe, voiced by David Schwimmer, center, and Marty the Zebra, voiced by Chris Rock, in a scene from "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." (AP Photo/DreamWorks Animation - Paramount Pictures)
On the run from Chantel, the animals take refuge aboard a circus train, where they team up with Vitaly the tiger (Bryan Cranston), Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the sea lion (Martin Short).