'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted' Review: New Faces, New Voices ... Same Franchise Fun

Those chatty penguins from the "Madagascar" franchise refuse to get old.

"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," available today on Blu-ray, may feel at first like another trip to the money store. The animated franchise has a lock on young viewers, and you could half forgive the studio behind it for phoning in the third installment.

Nothin' doing.


"Europe's Most Wanted" still doesn't reach Pixar heights. None of the films in the franchise can stake such a claim. It's still a candy-colored exhibition told with vibrant celebrity voices and more than a little animal charm.

Those lovable zoo escapees long to return to their Manhattan haunts, and when given the chance to fly in a monkey-made flying machine back home they leap at the chance.

What follows is a rigorously silly series of scenes which deposit the gang near a European circus troupe. The less said about this circuitous path to the main story, the better, although it all goes down nicely.

Now, Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) must win the hearts of the circus animals while evading the most aggressive animal control expert in screen history (Frances McDormand).

The franchise's willingness to crank scenes up past 11 can be tiresome, but the winning vocal performances consistently ground the mania. The emergence of Martin Short as a goofy trained seal gives the film a bona fide A+ cast ready to embrace the imaginative gags.

Add in those delightful penguins, a fabulous bit involving the escaped monkeys, and the kind of sumptuous animation that makes the extra Blu-ray charge more than worth it.

"Europe's Most Wanted" even includes a poignant, "you can't go home again" theme sure to resonate with parents who thought they were renting or streaming the film strictly for the kiddos.

The Blu-ray extras include a segment on the vocal cast along with some catchy musical mashups and deleted scenes. The latter are pieced together from half-finished computer animation as well as old-school sketches, a must for wannabe animators or curious children who want to see how the sausages are made.


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