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After the American vehicles went somewhat off-track overseas in Cars 2, the New York zoo animals go a bit bonkers on a trek through the Continent in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Not only extra-dimensional but extra-loud, extra-antic and extra-frenetic, this Paramount release from DreamWorks Animation, the latest addition to what is already a billion-dollar franchise, won’t see its diminished charm and humor too drastically impact its built-in moneymaking capabilities.
Dubiously desiring to return to their NYC zoo origins after escapades in Madagascar and Africa, lion Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) pick up where they left off at the end of the second installment in 2008 by pursuing the fleeing monkeys and penguins to Monte Carlo, where the havoc they wreak on the principality provokes the ire of a relentless animal control cop, Captain Chantel DuBois. Pointy-nosed, cannon-breasted, broad-butted, able to track a scent like a bloodhound and move like a spider, DuBois is one of two captivating new creations in this chapter, a deliciously demented adversary lip-smackingly voiced with a French accent by Frances McDormand.
The other fresh character with a different sort of appeal is Gia, a slinky Italian jaguar (purringly voiced by Jessica Chastain) who is part of a traveling circus the gang joins as a cover for their journey.
The train proceeds to Rome, the Alps and London, where the troupe puts on a spectacular laser-dominated show backed by Katy Perry’s “Firework” involving a lot of vertiginous high-diving and trapeze stunts that put the 3D to full use. The cavernous space crisscrossed by shafts of multicolored light reminds of nothing so much as the futuristic motor speedway in Tron with a bit of Speed Racer thrown in.
Madagascar 3 is colorful, moves like the TGV and is over in a flash. But it’s dominated by the characters shouting over one another, repetitively reacting with alarm to anything that happens and overcompensating for largely unfunny material by overacting by about 300 percent. Few traces of the wit and sophistication co-screenwriter Noah Baumbach helped bring to Fantastic Mr. Fox can be detected here. Yes, it’s a cartoon, but it’s conspicuously unmodulated, with the volume set on high and the pacing all but pushed to fast-forward.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival, out of competition
Opens: Friday, June 8 (Universal)
Cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jessica Chastain
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon Rated PG, 93 minutes
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