Photo Credit: Courtesy of DreamWorks Animation/Paramount Pictures
Thinking about seeing the Madagascar "threequel"? The latest adventures of these well-loved zoo buddies is not only entertaining, but might even be educational. Here's what you need to know from Common Sense Media.
Rating: Ages 6 and up: ON -- Content is age-appropriate for kids this age. (Ages 4 to 6: PAUSE -- Know your child. Some content may not be right for some kids. Age 2 and under: OFF -- Not age-appropriate for kids this age.)
What Parents Need To Know
Parents need to know that, like its two predecessors, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is appropriate for virtually the whole family. There's little questionable material here, although some parents may notice a couple of innuendos, some threats and dart-gun attacks, and one almost-curse word ("Bolshevik" is made to sound like "bull---t"). On the plus side, kids might learn a thing or two about the circus and European destinations like Paris, Rome, and Monte Carlo. As always, Madagascar 3 boils down to the central relationship between the four main zoo animals, and, like the others, the third movie makes sure kids know how important it is to have unconditional friends.
What's the Story?
As Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted opens, the four missing Central Park Zoo stars -- Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) -- are still stranded in Africa and homesick for the Big Apple. After the clever penguins build a plane and head off for Monte Carlo, the quartet summons the energy to swim to Monaco. But before they can grab the penguins, the friends wreak havoc on a casino and are pursued by determined animal-control cop Captain DuBois (Frances McDormand), who will stop at nothing to hunt and kill her one remaining animal trophy -- the lion. The only escape for Alex and his pals is to pretend to be circus performers and join a traveling circus led by grouchy Russian tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) and sweet jaguar Gia (Jessica Chastain).
Is It Any Good?
Usually third (and fourth and fifth) follow-ups to a popular animated franchise are less exciting than their original films, but Madgascar 3 is a colorful, funny, globe-trotting tale. Yes, it might have a thin plot, but it makes up for that with fabulously flamboyant visuals and memorable new characters -- not to mention an over-the-top villain in Captain DuBois. McDormand is hilarious as the cleverly written animal catcher. In one of the movie's highlights, she belts out an Edith Piaf-esque torch song that leaves everyone around her with smudged mascara (even the men). With a sad backstory of loss and insecurity, Cranston's Russian tiger is one of the more complicated characters in the series, while Martin Short's sea lion is a source of continuous comic relief.
As for the central characters, Gloria and Melman have little to do but discover their love of circus performing, and Marty has his moment with that ubiquitous catchprase ("circus afro, circus afro, polka dot, polka dot, polka dot afro!"). The silly subplot with King Julien falling in love with tricycle-riding bear Sonya (who doesn't speak, only grunts) will delight kids more than adults, but the real romance is between Alex and Gia, who help each other discover that home is where the heart is, not necessarily where you used to live.
What Families Can Talk About
-- Families can talk about how the two sets of animals help each other. What do the circus animals teach the Central Park Zoo pals about freedom? How do Alex and his friends make the circus better?
-- How does this installment of the franchise compare to the other two? Which one is your favorite?
-- How have the animals' adventures changed them? Why is the Central Park Zoo no longer the right home for the friends?