Considering how much detailed planning goes into a computer-animated movie, the third installment of the “Madagascar” franchise, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” has an oddly improvised, making-it-up-as-they-go-along quality. And that’s always a good thing.
Once again, Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) and his Central Park Zoo pals, Marty the zebra (voiced by Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer), are in Africa pining to get back to New York. This time, they get to Monte Carlo, where they (along with the other franchise regulars, the penguins and King Julien’s lemurs) are pursued by Capitaine Dubois (voiced by Frances McDormand), a ruthless animal-control officer. To escape, they hop on board a circus train and befriend the animals — including a dim-bulb sea lion (voiced by Martin Short), an alluring jaguar (voiced by Jessica Chastain) and a gruff Russian tiger (voiced by Bryan Cranston).
The script (by franchise co-creator Eric Darnell and, strangely enough, “Margot at the Wedding” director Noah Baumbach) feels like a clothesline on which directors Darnell, Tom McGrath (who also voices the Skipper penguin) and Conrad Vernon (“Monsters vs. Aliens”) hang visual set pieces, including a wild chase through Monaco and a candy-colored circus routine (to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Firework”). The movie is fast-moving enough to make you forget that it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’
Opens today at theaters everywhere; rated PG for some mild action and rude humor; 90 minutes.