Friday, June 7, 2013

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon.
2012. Rated PG, 93 minutes.
David Schwimmer
Martin Short
Andy Richter
Chris Miller

The crew, once again led by Alex (Stiller), is still trying to get back to New York City. This time, sadistic French Animal Control specialist Captain Chantel DuBois (McDormand) is hot on their tail. She desperately wants Alex’s head on her already cluttered wall. In trying to escape, our heroes find themselves joining a circus traveling across Europe. As luck would have it, there is a big promoter coming to their next show. If all goes well, he’ll pick them up and, yes, send them to New York. There’s just one little hitch, well two hitches: the show sucks and Captain DuBois is relentless.

Though our core group works through the main plot, newer characters are given ample time to shine. Bryan Cranston’s grumpy Russian tiger, Vitaly, is particularly fun. He gives us a nice opposing viewpoint to Stiller’s eternally optimistic Alex. In turn, his story and the resulting character arc are the most genuinely heartfelt in the movie. This emotion is perfectly counterbalanced by him having the most preposterous ability. It all combines to make him the most intriguing of the newbies. The others are fun, and we spend lots of time with the budding romance between Alex and Gia (Chastain), another Russian tiger.

The alumni fits comfortably into their roles. More or less, they’re tasked with keeping the laughs going. At this, they do a nice job. However, they might be trumped by another newbie – Captain DuBois. Honestly, Frances McDormand could not play the role any better. This is a movie that understands it’s only as good as its villain. It’s got a good one. Right from the start, her maniacal pursuit hits all the right notes.

There are issues. Most noticeably, things sag a bit in the middle as all the different subplots play out. I know what I said, that everyone getting time to shine is a good thing, because it is, but from time to time it can be too much. This gives Madagascar 3 a bit of a cluttered feel. It has to work pretty hard to pull all the plot strands together. It manages well enough and ends up being a solid ride.

MY SCORE: 7/10

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