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Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

November 5, 2012

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Fun, exuberant and beautiful to look at. Madagascar 3 is a breezy film that features circus afros, fantastic action scenes and an odd love story between a Ducati riding bear and a king lemur.  I wasn’t a fan of the first film and I didn’t watch the sequel but after listening to the Empire film magazine podcast I rented the the film. The folks at Empire gave the film four stars and applauded the insanity and sight gags. The four stars were well deserved because the film is a delight to the senses and packs a comedic punch.

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The film opens with the heroes swimming from Africa to Monaco in search of the fantastic penguins. You know the movie is on to something when the characters can swim vast lengths with no question. The film has a madcap anything goes attitude that allowed critics (78% RT) and audiences ($728 million worldwide) to appreciate it more than the predecessors. Also, indie king Noah Baumbach (Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) is credited for the screenplay which meant there was more nuance then a film like this deserves. Richard Corliss from TIME Magazine sums it up perfectly when he wrote:

“I have to give props to a movie that ascends from eccentricity to insanity without losing its footing.”

Insanity is correct. This film is so intelligently nonsensical and bombastic it feels like a roller coaster on top of a roller coaster. Sometimes you have to sit back, relax and appreciate characters who effortlessly swim thousands of miles to entertain you.

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The animals quickly cause a ruckus and are hunted by the insane Captain Chantal Dubois. The character voiced by Frances McDormand is a mixture of Cruella Deville and the Terminator. She is an unstoppable force of nature who can sniff like a bloodhound and is lethal with a dart gun. She is a perfect bad guy who only wants to put Alex the lions head on her wall.

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The animals buy a fledgling circus in hopes of making it through Europe and back to America. This allows new characters to be introduced and creates a catchy new jingle about Circus Afros. The shows are marvels of bright lights, nonsensical acrobatics and dogs flying around on jet packs. I love that they are absolutely bonkers and defy gravity and logic. Lions jump through tiny rings, neon colors are ablaze and countless stoners will be pleasantly surprised by the visuals presented to them.

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The thing I appreciate most about this threequel is that it is in no way phoned in. The creators have earned enough money and played the studio game long enough to the make the film they want. It has a madcap vibe that was lacking in the first film and the animation and 3D keep getting better and better. Where else will you see a Lemur falling in love with a bear whilst doing doughnuts in the Parthenon? The movie opens with an impressionistic dream and quickly explodes into a chase involving mopeds and a van with no brakes powered by a nuclear reactor.

Watch Madagascar 3. Appreciate circus afros, Try to jump through tiny hoops. Be first in line for the Penguin spinoff in 2015.

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