Four still hankering for home

MADAGASCAR 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon
93 mins

Fun with a little bit of a serious message, featuring humour on two levels, so it appeals to children and adults, appears to be the secret to the success of this franchise.

I found myself thinking about reading an Asterix book as I emerged.

They kept me entertained, intermittently, for years, because there are layers of meaning, and I suspect that I could see this movie a handful of times over several years and always find something new to amuse me.

Not that I was rolling in the aisles, mind you, but several moments did make me laugh out loud.

We meet the franchise's central quartet - Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippopotamus and apple of Melman's bulgy eyes (Jada Pinkett Smith) - where the last movie left them, on the African savannah.

An ideal location, it seems, but no, having grown up in Central Park Zoo, they hanker for the concrete jungle.

They decide to head off in pursuit of the franchise's hilarious penguins, who have taken the plane we saw in the second movie to Monte Carlo, hoping to hitch a ride back to New York.

What ensues is a chase across Europe that sees the introduction of France's blood-thirsty chief animal control officer, Captain Chantal DuBois, superbly voiced by the versatile Frances McDormand, and a crew of circus animals including tightly wound tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), leopard Gia (Jessica Chastain), insecure sea lion Stefano (Martin Short) and a host of others, including some seriously funny cockney performing dogs.

As always, though, the best lines go to Sacha Baron Cohen's King Julien, whose love affair with Sonya the performing bear (Frank Welker) is a highlight, and the ubiquitous penguins.

Great holiday fare for youngsters - and their parents.

The Timaru Herald