I love the first Madagascar so much that I actually put it on my All Time Top 10 list. It's a masterpiece in my book. I can watch the sequel too, but it's nowhere near as good. What bothered me most about it was that the human characters suddenly had a part to play. There were scenes where we just followed them, and who cares about those guys, right? Let's get back to the animals!
And so we arrive at Madagascar 3, yet another adventure with Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo. This is a film I was cautiously awaiting, mostly because it seemed, in the trailer, that humans had a big part to play in this too, and because I just didn't care for a story about our favorite animals trying to get through Europe, passing for circus animals. I feared a distracting mess without any connection to the spirit of the original.
Unfortunately that assessment proved absolutely correct.
Madagascar 3 seems to have lost all interest in its four lead characters, beyond using them as props in large, loud action scenes. Maybe there weren't any stories left to tell, but if that was the case, they should have stopped after 2. Instead of following four animals we care about on yet another character-building adventure, we get a story about a few unlikable circus animals and their problems, which our four heroes just happen to get mixed up in.
There are so many characters in this movie that there's barely time for our already quite large cast (including penguins, king Julian and his posse, plus the monkeys), meaning that several solid, fun characters from the first two films are reduced to mere cameos, or just background noise. The human element I mentioned comes mostly from a French animal-control woman, who is chasing our heroes. She a disgustingly designed character, who would fit better as a judge in an animated sequence from The Wall. She not funny, she's overly mean, and she's getting too much screen-time.
Also confirming my fears: The story is awful. More or less nothing but a loud series of elaborate set pieces full of explosions and colors. It jumps over the most basic story and character development, things just "happen" out of the blue. Seemingly unsurmountable problems vanish from scene to scene, and the animals are even transported from one continent to the next in a single cut, with no explanation of how they managed to pull off that trick.
When Marty suddenly built a huge hut on the beach in the first film, it was fun, and you didn't care how impossible it was. When our heroes manage to build an elaborate flying circus in this one, full of rockets and swings, and all kinds of crap. It's not funny, it's annoying, and blatantly unrealistic. That's right, in an animated film about four talking animals, this movie actually manages to seem unrealistic.
I did have fairly low expectations about Madagascar 3, and yet it still disappointed. It's a cold, loud, calculated mess, screaming for attention with every frame in the most charmless way. I'd rather watch a real circus, and that's saying something.