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Madagascar 3: Europeís Most Wanted (Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon, 2012)


Adapting both the tone and the artistry of an average Saturday morning cartoon, the dispiriting three-quel Madagascar 3: Europeís Most Wanted crashes onto screens with all the nuance of a tsunami. Picking up right where its predecessor left off, this entry into this dopey franchise follows its cast of perpetual underdog zoo animals as they are pursued by a French police officer and find themselves the newest members of a circus run by animals. Frances McDormand, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain and Martin Short lend their voices to a cast thatís already overloaded with big-name talent, but no one beyond Chris Rock, who voices a zany zebra with a lot of energy, makes much of an impression. Imagination is in short supply in this virtual retread of the two films that preceded it.


Noah Baumbach, who co-scripted The Fantastic Mr. Fox, probably the best childrenís movie of the last decade, co-scripted this film, but there is next to none of Andersonís filmís wit to be found here. Instead, Madagascar 3 is repetitive and relentlessly kinetic. The epitome of obnoxious childrenís filmmaking, it consists of an interminable eighty-odd minutes of screamed punch lines, loud chase scenes and meaningless pop culture references. Even in its quietest moments, it clunks you over your head with its obviousness. The effect of watching it, at least for this adult viewer, is nothing short of exhaustion. Some CG cartoons of this type are partially redeemed by their visuals, but here the sights largely exist only to serve the schtick, resulting in a fictional world filled with grotesqueries and gaudiness. The animals are so stylized in this series that one canít even admire the technical processes used to bring them to life.


Two short sequences in which the cast of animals engage in a Cirque de Soliel-style spectacle partially justify the filmís otherwise unexceptional 3D effects and provide the only relief from the aggressive noise and underdeveloped plotting of the rest of the film. Here spectacle overtakes slapstick as the filmís prime goal, and for a moment things grow tolerable. Adults routinely report tolerating this sort of film for the sake of children, yet it is puzzling that they continue to perpetuate. Madagascar 3 is endemic of chronically lowered standards, and its audiences surely know what they are getting into when they set foot in the theater. For the rest of us, we can only hope that this series of mediocrities, which has already spanned three continents, spares us the other four.



Jeremy Heilman