Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted 3D Review

Madagascar is a billion dollar franchise worldwide. Two theories on why that is:

1. Audiences become so transfixed by the throbbing beat of “Move it, Move it” every summer, they’re brainwashed into a psychosis to see these things.
2. Holy crap, Madagascar 3 is actually fun.

Honestly, most of Madagascar 2 is a wash. There was a plane, some penguins, and the trailer played with obnoxiousness during the summer theatrical season of 2008. The movie didn’t deserve to be remembered. All it brings up are repetitious nightmares of horror as a theater subwoofer pounds to the, “Move it” song. Ugh.

Forging ahead and telling the audience to move it, Europe’s Most Wanted takes that to heart. The film moves it at a blistering pace, catapulting into existence less than five minutes in as the foursome of Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria decide it’s high time to hit up New York. After a plane crash, they land in stereotypical France, invade a casino, and it’s chaos.

There’s always something about this series that never clicked. People here pay to see animals in a circus do ludicrous stunts, yet seem flabbergasted when they see one on the street. There’s some disconnect there, and yeah, it’s a kids movie, no logic, yada yada. It’s something this series have never coped with.

Getting past that and a slew of celebrity voices that pull the viewer out more than push them in, Madagascar 3 crowns this trilogy with a ton of fun and even character. If the opening is too forced in terms of storytelling, the flick makes up for it near the closing moments. Back in New York, looking in on their zoo, Alex (Ben Stiller) realizes that leaving was the best thing for him – and his crew. Part of them miss their life in the limelight, and the rest are too indulgent in their freedom.

Most of the movie takes a familiar line to the finish, with introduced villains, kooky side characters, a set of newcomers (the best of which is a non-speaking bear), and voracious female animal control officer. Her methods, include a sense of smell more acute than any in the animal kingdom and licking up water out of a footprint (!) are nothing short of creepy. It’s more effective than anything Russian Tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) sets out to do. To put it bluntly, he’s Russian, so he’s evil. Thanks for pulling out of the ’80s Hollywood.

Built for 3D to the point of nauseousness if you’re not one of the glasses-wearing types, Madagascar 3 is overloaded with visual materials to keep the kids happy. It’s over saturated, bright, and talkative in the extreme, and somehow finds a balance to make it all work. The comedic jabs keep coming at a steady rate, and the writing is snappy. This series may have legs.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Before reading this, scroll down to the images. Go ahead, take your time and study them. Are you back? Good. Let’s all chant in unison then: OH GREAT BLU-RAY GODS, WE SALUTE YOU!

Seriously, anything written here is redundant. Madagascar 3 is possibly a new champion of a format that continues to defy expectations and produce… well, it produces stuff like this. A dazzling, over the top circus act proved too kinetic for still shots, but it’s arguably one of the most remarkable two minutes of visual excess you’ll find. Coated in neons, draped in reflections, and so saturated your eyes can’t even process that much color, it’s a new standard.

Detail and sharpness are so high, it’s probably time to rewrite what those terms mean. As the animals reach the beaches in stealth mode, a shot of the citywide paradise is a dazzling display of definition. Sometimes you wish for 4K, other times you realize there’s plenty of life left in 1080p (but seriously, 4K would be awesome). There’s nothing wrong here, and it’s no less impressive because it’s animated. If anything, this encode from Paramount has to work quadruple time to manage hundreds of balloons being thrown at the screen, fast moving animals, water splashing everywhere, and texture layered upon texture. There’s not an ounce of visual compression to be seen, assuming such a thing could be weighed.

Black levels are outstanding when they’re needed in full force (a rather terrifying reveal inside a train car for one, the entire circus for another) and contrast is super perky. The jury remains out on whether we need 3D or not, but discs like this can certainly question its usefulness. The depth even in this flat image is truly a sight to see, and animation is only improving. It will be a while until this one is topped. Congrats Madagascar 3, you earned your crown.

[Update 9/14/13] And, in continuance, Madagascar 3 does, in fact, prove we need 3D. A champion sequence begins immediately, with a chase through foreign streets which forces animal noses past the screen and direct to viewers. This disc has no sensibility for going too far, rather, it just pushes because it knows what will work.

Character designs aid 3D digital cinematography, with elongated faces which consistently poke out. Action scenes are simply marvels, and Madagascar 3 adores brightness, meaning many of these will avoid cross talk implications on sets prone to it. That circus act highlight mentioned above is perfectionism in motion, and so genuinely stunning, this disc can reside in your player without worry: It will also be a peak performer.

2D-Video ★★★★★ 

3D-Video ★★★★★ 

Kids movies rarely bring the bass, this a disc that carries no distinction in this sub-market. It’s certainly a come down from the video, but when a seal is stuffed into a cannon full of TNT and the sound effect from the resulting explosion is a pop, there’s a problem. There is far more weight to the soundtrack than any of the action elements, which is a shame.

The key here is all surround work, including intense tracking during the wilder moments that capture all of the elements while putting the additional rears of this 7.1 mix to use. Vehicles passing overhead sound as such, while a train panning to one side hugs the proper audio angle. Stereos are no stranger either, utilized to push the front soundstage from the center. There’s no doubt this a traveler.

Music is a final element, blended spectacularly to power out vocals and spread themes into the surrounds for envelopment. Balance keeps these elements in check to create something that can be played loud without fear, and always be a showstopper… unless it’s blowing things up.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Do you like your commentaries visual or just audio? Madagascar 3 does it both ways. The Animator’s Corner goes for picture-in-picture with pre-visualization art, video of the three directors chatting, and more. For a child’s film, it’s quite technical at times. If you prefer, jump into a trivia track.

Big Top Cast begins the usual smattering of applause for the voice talent, a waste of 14-minutes unless you’ve never seen an animated film made before. A short trio of deleted scenes are unfinished (as they usually are), and Music Mash-up is an odd re-edit of a few scenes. Ringmasters is the best featurette, taking in an entire day of production from the perspective of each director.

A roundtable is a far too short conversation with the four main cast as they discuss the series. A cheap game, trailers, and a long sneak peek at a Dreamworks stage show are left.

Extras ★★★☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.