Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is a riot of splashy colors, silly 3-D gimmicks, big, broad kid-friendly gags -- and those professionally pesky penguins.
And, for adults, there's the charming spectacle of Oscar winner Frances McDormand giving voice to her inner Edith Piaf as she belts out Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien -- as a French-accented animal control officer.
The third film in this unlikely animated franchise takes those New York refugees from remote Africa, where they've been stranded, to Monte Carlo and other points in the Eurozone as they try to get back to the friendly and confining Central Park Zoo.
It's repetitious, as animated sequels usually are. It's running low on new ideas, though some of the conclusions these critters -- lion, zebra, hippo and giraffe -- reach about their fates may surprise you.
But it's also funny, a farce closer to Shrek the Third than, say, Toy Story 3.
We pick up the story of the zoo-escapees Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) in Africa, castaways since their fellow zoo-escapees, the enterprising penguins, have taken off in their modified chimp-powered plane and promised to send help. Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman, King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Co. have to make their own way to Monte Carlo. That's where they run afoul of the legendary Capt. Chantel DuBois (McDormand), a fanatic prone to sniffing around on all fours when she is tracing her quarry. She makes a terrific villain as she chases the unruly animals all over Europe after they break the bank at the casino and make a break for it by hiding in a circus. The relationships progress, and the zoo animals, tested again and again in alien environments, keep weighing which is better -- a life in captivity, where they're coddled and adored, or something more challenging.
Madagascar has always had that subtext, but it's been less about message and more about laughs. And Europe's Most Wanted, despite its shrinking ambitions and slow spots, still delivers those -- usually in a South Pole tuxedo.