Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Featuring the voices of: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Frances McDormand, Jessica Chastain (English version); Ronald Cheng Chung-kei, Donald Tong Kim-hong, Carol Cheng Yue-ling (Cantonese version) Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon
Category: I (English and Cantonese versions)
Four years after their botched escape from Africa, the ex-New York Zoo animals return in 3-D with a tale about - what else? - another attempt to leave their ancestral continent for home via Monaco, Rome and London.
Madagascar 3 is about the challenge faced by the lion Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and hippopotamus Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) as they try to get back to New York from the African plains, where they were stuck towards the end of the series' last instalment.
The group feels the key to their returning home lies in going to Monte Carlo and locating a plane that could take them back to the US; seconds later, they emerge from the azure waters of the Mediterranean to do just that. If they could so easily arrive in Europe, why not just go straight back to New York?
There wouldn't be a film if they did that, of course - but such defiance of logic in the film's basic premise speaks volumes about the diminishing returns of a franchise reaching its threequel stage.
There are some instances of sharp humour, probably thanks to Noah Baumbach's presence as a co-screenwriter, but mostly the story is limp, with the whole journey through Europe shaping up as mostly an aggregation of vignettes, stereotypical characters and dud romances.
Vitaly and Gia are two circus performers in a troupe that has lost its vitality the protagonists run into during their European sojourn. Alex tells them (and helps them) to rework their routines into a non-human equivalent of Cirque du Soleil - and it's with this spectacle that Madagascar 3 markets itself as all-round summertime entertainment going one step ahead of the previous two films in the franchise.
The filmmakers have certainly made good use of the 3-D to play up the hoopla, but it's a visceral climax that couldn't salvage Madagascar 3's flimsy plot.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted opens today