They were accidentally shipped from Central Park Zoo to Madagascar for the first movie, made it to Africa in the second and now, in the third instalment of animated comedy Madagascar, our animal pals Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo decide it's time for them to head back home to New York. Of course, such a journey is bound to go wrong – especially when those pesky penguins and excitable lemurs are about – so their trip to America detours via Europe (don't ask) and the casinos of Monte Carlo, where they fall foul of a French animal control inspector (McDormand) who is so mean she'd scare Cruella DeVil. Their only escape is to join a passing travelling circus and convince the gruff animals there that they have circus skills of their own.
If it all sounds bonkers, that's because it is, in a flashy, fast and hugely enjoyable way. There are double the gags of the previous movie, many of them provided by secondary characters such as Skipper the penguin, evil inspector DuBois and lemur King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) – who has a rather unlikely but hilarious love affair. In fact, the main quartet of the Madagascar movies almost become supporting characters, giving the cuter, funnier creatures a chance to shine (although there could have been more penguins – you can never have enough penguins).
It's faster-paced and more lusciously animated, too, especially in the circus sequences as we hear about daring tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), who used to fly through a hoop of fire, and in a technicolor spectacular to the tune of Katy Perry's 'Firework'. All in all, it's a massive improvement on the second film of the franchise, a glossy, funny, bright and breezy animal adventure.
Is Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Very young children may find Vitaly a bit scary to begin with, and may be frightened by Inspector DuBois.