After stopping off in Madagascar and Africa in the previous films, that gang of animal escapees from New York City zoo continues its globe-trotting tour with a shiny, bright and somewhat breathless adventure through scenic European cities in the aptly-titled Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

The new film opens with Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo stranded in Africa by their cunning penguin pals, who’ve taken off with their airplane for some high-stakes gambling in Monte Carlo. Missing their life in the Big Apple, the foursome literally swims their way to Europe to nab those naughty penguins and to fly back home. But things don’t quite go according to plan, and pretty soon the gang is on the run from a psychotic animal-control chief, Chantel DuBois (voiced with delicious smarminess by an excellent Frances McDormand), who seems determined on capturing her first lion. Madagascar 3 comes into its own when the desperate New Yorkers meet a circus heading to Rome, and offer to join the troupe with a bag of fresh tricks and ideas to liven up their act.

The first film in the series to embrace 3D, this ‘threequel’ delivers many laughs and plenty color, but the action unfolds at such a frenetic pace, it’s as if the filmmakers want to cram in everything they can so the viewer doesn’t have a moment to stop and question the plot-holes.

There are, however, some lovely moments too…like nutty lemur king Julien’s romance with a big she-bear on a bicycle, and the sheer camaraderie that develops between our four heroes and the new friends they make in the circus, particularly Vitaly the frustrated Russian tiger, Stefano the goofy Italian sea-lion, and a beautiful Italian jaguar named Gia.

The film’s third act is an orgy of neon and music with some amazing pyrotechnics, as the animals stage an eye-popping circus extravaganza that little ones in the audience are sure to be completely seduced by. The 3D serves well here as things come flying at you in glorious technicolor, even as the usual message of following your dream and valuing your freedom is drilled into your head all over again.

Madagascar 3 is light and breezy and enough fun, even if it is a little hollow and missing the crackling wit of the previous films. I’m going with three out of five. When the curtains come down on this adventure, you’ll leave the cinema smiling… It’s like that old friend you enjoyed hanging out with, but are in no hurry to meet anytime soon again.

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