Dirs: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon. US. 2012. 93mins


The animal escapees from New York City zoo continue their world tour (after stop-offs in Madagascar and Africa in the first two animated romps) with a bright and breezy jaunt through Europe that delivers enough laughs, action and thrillingly staged adventure to keep the young ones happy. This good-natured sequel sees them coming full circle and finally make it back to the Big Apple, but given the box office success of the franchise don’t discount another spin-off in years to come.

The 3D works to impressive effect as the stodgy old-fashioned circus is gradually transformed into a bright, balletic and stylish Cirque du Soleil affair.

This is the first in the series to embrace 3D, and the directing team of Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon make the most of the format as the film loads the film with plenty of ‘in-your-face’ 3D effects as the characters flip, roll and fly through the story. The process doesn’t dampen the lush colour and the film-makers have enough fun with the format to justify the use of 3D.

At the end of Madagascar 2 the New York zoo animals – lion Alex (Stiller), zebra Marty (Rock), hippo Gloria (Smith) and giraffe Melman (Schwimmer) – were left stranded in Africa while their conniving penguin pals had boarded their re-built aircraft are were heading to Monte Carlo for a gambling spree.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted opens with Alex dreaming of returning to his adoring fans at the Central Park zoo, and before you know it the foursome decide to head to Europe for ‘Operation Penguin Extraction”, as they make a beeline for the casino to grab the penguins.

Things go crashingly wrong, and the animals find themselves hotly pursued (on a scooter) by the steely-eyed Capitaine Chantel DuBois (enthusiastically voiced by Frances McDormand) who is determined to add a lion’s head to her wall of animals captured and killed.

After a frantic chase through the streets of Monte Carlo they finally manage to escape by convincing the animals of the Circus Zaragosa that they are in fact talented circus animals and are given refuge on the circus train heading to Rome.  The animals there – including tiger Vitaly (Craston), sea lion Stefano (Short) and jaguar Gia (Chastain) – are protective of their circus family, but the escapees convince them that they are ‘circus’ as well, and are brimming with exciting high wire ideas.

After stop-offs in Rome and London the circus signs a deal to perform in Central Park, and with Capitaine DuBois still hot in their trail the animals make a triumphant return to Manhattan…only to finally realise that the adventures and freedom they have experience are more important that the adulation, free food and adulation they receive back at the zoo.

Charmingly the 3D works to impressive effect as the stodgy old-fashioned circus is gradually transformed into a bright, balletic and stylish Cirque du Soleil affair, with much emphasis put on how the animals’ hard-work and creativity pays off, with a spectacular performance set against singer Katy Perry’s foot-tappingly perfect song Firework as the animals spin and leap through the air with joyful abandon.

Production company: DreamWorks Animation SKG

Producers: Mireille Soria, Mark Swift

Screenplay: Eric Darnell, Noah Baumbach

Music: Hans Zimmer

Main cast: (voices) Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sasha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Frances McDormand, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Martin Short