To call any of the 'Madagascar' productions a 'movie' is like saying it snows in Alaska, because over the years these films have all grown to be more than just stories on celluloid. Madagascar is a brand, a franchise, an icon; the sort of thing today's children will view with tears of nostalgia on some highly advanced version of Blu-ray in much the same manner as yesterday's children behaved with Toy Story when it came out on VCD. Seven years and three feature films down the line, Madagascar has sealed itself as a force to be reckoned within the animation industry, and even if they don't end up making a fourth production, the value that animation geeks see in Madagascar isn't going to disappear into the backlogs anytime soon.
But yes, every brand makes a bad maneuver once in a while. Madagascar did too, with Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Let's admit it, that film strayed too much into Lion King territory, but without half the charm and enigma of Disney's classical epic. Escape to Africa wasn't half the film that the original Madagascar was, and the same metric being applicable, the original Madagascar isn't half the film that Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is.
With their third outing, DreamWorks have pulled out all the stops to redeem themselves from the last Madagascar blunder. There's a good, exciting story, great jokes, breathtaking visual appeal and the added novelty of finally taking our favorite animals out of the jungle and into the city. Europe's Most Wanted finds Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe in the midst of European metropolitan opulence, where they befriend a troupe of circus animals in a bid to find their way back home to Central Park
Zoo. The film really rides high on the adventure quotient scale at this point, with the animals becoming a part of the circus act.
Of course there are the bumbling penguins, King Julien XIII plus his side-kicks and the notorious chimps. And of course a host of new characters from the 'Circus Zaragoza'; Vitaly the tiger, Gia the jaguar, Stefano the sea-lion, a group of thuggish Yorkshire terriers who dress in drag and the villain, Cpt. Chantel Dubois; police chief and trophy collector who won't stop until she has obtained Alex's head for her wall. One of the most memorable moments throughout the whole film, in fact, depicts Dubois (voiced by Oscar winner Frances McDormand crooning a raucous, yet enjoyable, version of Edith Piaf's Non, je ne regrette rien.
The animals seem more human than before, more spontaneous, and the humor is more relatable than what the previous two Madagascar outings have explored, meaning that this film isn't exactly for children. The one-liners come hard and fast, the pop culture references can be very rude and it might even get a little unbearable for someone who doesn't have a penchant for hyperactive, hyper-colored, blink-and-you miss it style animation. In fact, it's worth wondering how anyone below the age of thirteen will fully manage to grasp the slightly more mature nuances of this film. But perhaps this is a good thing. It retains a whole different world of interpretation for these children to explore when they watch the same movie years later.
Narrative wise, the film wraps up on a note of closure, suggesting that Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is the final film in the Madagscar franchise. If so, the conclusion could not be any more epic. With the summer vacations just concluding, this is a film that you want to hurry up and watch with the kids before their school-bus begins pulling up outside your home again.