"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted": Sensory Overload

After New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is through regulating sugar intake via soft drinks, he might want to consider the dubious, overstimulating effects of a film like Madagascar 3. Like a big-screen Big Gulp, this third installment of the billion-dollar animated franchise contains as much cinematic confection as an 85-minute movie can bear. It incorporates even more riotous movement and cacophonous sound than its predecessors, more characters than you can reasonably track, more locations than a Bourne film (Africa to Monte Carlo to Rome to London to New York), and an extra dimension (3-D, natch). The series' third director (Shrek 2's Conrad Vernon joins original tandem Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath) gives us the same core four animals — lion Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), and giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) — still looking for a way back home to the Central Park Zoo. They rejoin an anarchic tribe of penguins and monkeys for an extended detour through Europe, where they run afoul of Gallic animal-huntress Capitaine Chantel DuBois (a full-throttled Frances McDormand) and join a disheveled circus. Despite a steady barrage of sight gags and pop-culture references, the film works best when downshifted to good old-fashioned character development, particularly when establishing newcomers like Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), an embittered Siberian tiger, and Stefano (Martin Short) a dim-witted, eager-to-please sea lion. But when everyone teams up to give the circus an American-style upgrade, the results are Madagascar 3 in miniature: In lieu of finesse and high-wire elegance, there's a torrent of jet packs, screaming lights, infinitely elasticized creatures, pyrotechnical bombast, and Katy Perry's "Firework." Big rush, empty calories. Fill 'er up.

 
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