If I Ran I Circus, I’d Have Penguins and Lemurs

There was a time between my childhood and my adult yeas, when frankly, too many animated movies appealed just to children. I remember watching American Tale and The Secret of NIMH with my entire family and all of us enjoying it. Then came Pokémon and every parents or babysitter I knew complained about it. Slowly, children’s movies are being family movies once again where adults and children alike could enjoy them. Shrek and Ice Age helped bridge this gap as well as theMadagascarseries.

In the series third installment Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted, Alex and the gang are tired of waiting for the penguins to return from their trip with money to fly home. Alex mistakenly decides that they should go get the penguins and the crew swims to Monte Carlo. Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria not only manage to give away the penguins disguise and end their winning streak, but they also gain attention of famed animal control captain Chantel Dubois.

In an effort to escape Dubois, who wants to put Alex’s head on her mantle, the crew stowaway with a circus train. Alex and company purchase the circus unaware that the circus owners are laughing all the way to the bank. The circus is not as magical as it once was, and it’s up to the Central Park Zoo crew to help them win the heart of the European audiences.

The story itself is nothing new. Male lies to female in order to hide out/join crew and then he lies are outed. A washed up performed gets his groove back. Home is not always where the house is. But the movie’s charm lies less in the tired story arcs and more on the way the story is executed. Personification of the animals gives empathy to these homesick creatures as they battle animal versions of human problems. The humor keeps the movie from becoming too serious.

As usual, King Julien steals the show. Not only does he continue to riff on modern music (“I am getting so hot, I wanna take my fur off”). But his love affair with a tri-cycle riding bear is both humorous and heartfelt. With the help of the penguins, Marty, and the new comer Stefano, a sea lion voiced by Martin Short, the movie stays fresh and funny. In fact, try come out of the theatre not singing “Afro Circus.”

The rebooted circus performance is one of the most beautiful animated scenes I have seen in some time. The bright colors and shapes made me regret I wasn’t watching the movie in 3D. Set to Katy Perry’s “Firework” the art work is stunning and captures the audience like the families in the circus crowd.

There was some controversy with the movie audience I watched it with. At one point the Russian tiger proclaims that something is “full of Bolsheviks.” There was a collective gasp from parents and some children as they processed that the tiger had not used the word that they had thought he had. And to be honest, I’m not sure some people even knew the difference.
Overall, Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted keeps the franchise fresh and fun. Humors and heart warming, Madagascar 3 tackles the old idea that your place in the world may not be the place you call home.