MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (Rated PG)
Recently, I mused that sequels may sound good on paper but don’t work out as nicely as intended. “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” may well scramble this dynamic.
Of course, it’s been seven years since the original and one presidential election cycle since the first sequel. As a result, there may be a void in my memory bank.
Still, “Madagascar 3” is so lively, boisterous, funny and colorful that the realization of a second sequel is a worthy endeavor even though multiple directors and writers are attached to this project.
The quartet of Central Park Zoo animals have always been the central focus of the “Madagascar” franchise. Their presence is not only elemental but vitally agreeable.
Ben Stiller voices the handsome, pensive lion Alex, who frets uneasily about his role as king of the jungle. Nervous giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) appears to be less of a hypochondriac this time around.
The garrulous zebra Marty, voiced by Chris Rock, delivers his thoughts at break-neck pace. Meanwhile, hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett-Smith) remains blissfully cheerful.
As the film opens, this quartet misses their old New York home so much that they have recreated the island of Manhattan out of mud and clay in the middle of the African desert.
They are stranded in the misbegotten corner of the African continent because the penguins and monkeys took off for Monte Carlo where they are attempting to beat the casino at the gambling tables.
Making their way across the Mediterranean, the quartet launches an elaborate plan to foil the schemes of the traitorous tuxedoed birds and their chimpanzee henchmen.
Orchestrated commotion at the casino is a funny chaotic scene, but it brings the unwanted attention of a fierce animal control officer named Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand).
Captain DuBois’ idea of dealing with runaway wildlife is to bag Alex as a trophy to be put on her office wall. She won’t be honored for her work by PETA anytime soon.
With the skills of a bloodhound and the instincts of a predator, the deranged DuBois makes a great villain. She is so relentless that she will leap tall buildings on a Vespa in hot pursuit.
Even international borders won’t stop the Captain’s manhunt (or should that be animal hunt?). The quartet, now reunited with the ones who deserted them, hook up with a shabby circus act for a nifty getaway.
The circus train is heading to Rome, but the prime attraction is the ill-tempered Siberian tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), who no longer wants to perform after an unfortunate accident.
Vitaly is hostile to the circus interlopers, but the dim-witted sea lion Stefano (Martin Short) and the shapely trapeze artist jaguar Gia (Jessica Chastain) are more accepting.
The plot, so to speak, involves the animals putting on a really good circus show to get the attention of an American promoter who will take them to New York.
Of course, Alex and his friends have an ulterior motive; they want to return to the Central Park Zoo by any means necessary.
Meanwhile, complications arise as the inevitable romance blossoms between the shy, introverted Alex and the slinky, sexy Gia, who purrs like an Italian starlet in front of adoring paparazzi.
A weirder romance, played for great laughs, involves the wacky, ostentatious lemur King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) being madly infatuated with a huge tricycle-riding bear that never utters a sound.
The animation, rich in colors and texture, is so excellent that the use of 3D only enhances the action at some critical moments, including a dazzling circus act complete with fireworks.
In all respects, “Madagascar 3” is packed with action, spectacle, energy and humor that should prove appealing to both children and adults. Besides, the animals are really endearing.
How can you resist?
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
Not everyone subscribes to the Showtime cable network, so now we all have the opportunity to enjoy a terrifically funny series called “Episodes.”
The DVD release of “Episodes: The First Season” offers the perfect blend of British and American humor when a British husband-and-wife team arrive in Hollywood to produce an Americanized version of their hit British TV show.
Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig) must keep it together in order to navigate the shark-infested waters of Hollywood and survive with their careers, marriage and sanity intact.
This won’t be an easy task. Matt LeBlanc, playing himself, stars as the overbearing lead of the American TV series produced by the Lincolns.
Though it consists of only seven hysterical half-hour episodes, “Episodes: The First Season” is not something to be missed.
The second season premieres on July 1 on Showtime. It’s either time to subscribe or just patiently wait until the next inevitable DVD release.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.