Afro Circus – ★★½
Ben Stiller and the gang are back in the third instalment of the money-spinning Madagascar series. Devoid of structure, plot or real life lessons it still packs enough jokes and bright colours to keep the tots entertained.
Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) are still stuck in Africa for about two minutes before arriving at Monte Carlo. How did they get from Africa to Monte Carlo? Don’t know and who cares it’s a kids film. This is the over-riding sentiment of the film, massive plot holes along with no explanation of many elements. Once in Monte Carlo they meet up with the penguins who are trying to accumulate enough funds to fix their plane in order to get back to the familiar surroundings of New York.
When Alex and his compadres crash the party their cover is blown and they must go on the run from the crazy animal catcher Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) who is hell bent on getting a lion’s head for her collection. Coming across a traveling circus they seem to have all their prayers answered but must first convince the grumpy Vitaly (Bryan Cranston). This is easily achieved and when the monkeys and penguins buy the circus they must transform it from the ramshackle outfit it has become to a show worthy of Cirque de Soleil in an attempt to woo an American promoter.
The film barrels along at an incredible pace leaving little time for exposition or real development of the characters. Nobody has to overcome any great feats, the moody Vitaly is the only animal with any measure of complexity but he merely agrees to give it another go after a small pep talk from Alex. As with most of these affairs the secondary characters are the best and most enjoyable, Cedric the Entertainer as Maurice steals the show in a side story involving his love for a 2 tonne bear. It’s nice to hear the always funny Martin Short as Stefano and Jessica Chastain isn’t letting up lending her voice to Gia, a feisty cheetah.
The whole story is an odd one seeing as the circus, especially containing animals, is such an outmoded concept. The film looks great and younger viewers should take note that no circus on earth could match the majesty of the one presented here. All the actors are in fine form and it contains enough jokes to keep older viewers entertained. Not in any danger of knocking Pixar off it’s throne but enjoyable nonetheless.
USA / Directed By: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath / Written By: Eric Darnell, Noah Baumbach / Starring: Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer / 93min / Animation, Adventure / Release: 8 June 2012 (US/Canada), 19 October 2012 (UK/Ireland)