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Film review: MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED, from Built For Speed

The DreamWorks animated films haven’t quite earned the critical plaudits of the Pixar masterpieces but they have chalked up sufficiently good box-office to spawn a few sequels and now we have one of their most successful franchises, Madagascar, back for a third helping.

This time that lovable quartet of oddly non-aggressive zoo creatures: Alex the lion voiced by Ben Stiller, Marty the zebra voiced by Chris Rock, Melman the neurotic giraffe voiced by David Schwimmer and Gloria the hippo voiced by Jada Pinkett-Smith, find themselves in Europe desperately trying to get back to the old US of A.  When a maniacal and strangely indestructible female gendarme goes after them, they realise the only place they can hide is in a travelling circus.

The film turns into a Euro travelogue and circus movie parody with amusing references to that genre’s clichés including the performer who’s traumatised by an act that went wrong. It also seems to hark back lovingly to the long lost days of animal exploitation in circuses.

Any semblance of plot is quickly lost amid high energy sight gags which the kids will love but adults may find a little loud and manic.  The script, however, is peppered with in-jokes for the parents’ amusement.

Adults and children alike will be thrilled by the animation which is astonishingly detailed, at times startlingly realistic and actually makes effective use of 3D.

You can have all the visual effects you like but a film such as this isn’t going to work if the characters aren’t memorable and appealing and thankfully Stiller, Rock, Schwimmer and Pinkett-Smith have the charm and the comic chops to make a basically ludicrous and sometimes incomprehensible story work.

I still don’t think the new breed of animated films (Toy Story and Wall E aside) have the charm of the classic Disney and Warner brothers cartoons or even the old Rankin Bass Christmas stories where the ocean was a piece of cellophane but the all-important audience of youngsters seems to love them and Madagascar 3 should be a hit as well.

 

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: PG

Director(s): Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon

Release date: 13th September 2012

Running time: 93 mins.

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