DVD Release Date: October 16, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: June 8, 2012 (2D and 3D theaters)
Rating: PG (for some mild action and rude humor)
Genre: Family, Animation, Sequel
Run Time: 85 min.
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon
Voices by: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Tom McGrath, Frances McDormand, Jessica Chastain, Martin Short, Bryan Cranston

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly endless stream of television ads: As much fun as it is, Madagascar 3 is still no Toy Story 3.

But you can’t blame the marketing team for trying, right? After all, as cute and crowd-pleasing as circus animals are, especially for the younger set, most franchises tend to lose steam once the third installment rolls around.

Perhaps, sensing the series needed a bit of shaking up, Madagascar 3 is certainly a step up from its predecessors, especially in thoroughly eye-popping 3D. Like last year’s underappreciated Rio, the film’s color palette is absolutely stunning and gives everyone from Alex the lion (Ben Stiller, Tower Heist) to Marty the zebra (Chris Rock, What to Expect When You’re Expecting) to Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer, John Carter) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith, The Women) a much-needed jolt of new life.

Also helping the cause considerably is a much funnier screenplay, thanks to the collaboration between series veteran Eric Darnell and indie darling Noah Baumbach, who also worked on the 2009 animated gem, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Playing it fast and loose from the very beginning, the movie’s decidedly frenetic pace suits this motley crew of characters particularly well and keeps the story from dragging on, which should, no doubt, please all the adults in the room.

For anyone jumping on the bandwagon a bit late, no prior knowledge of previous events is really required to enjoy Madagascar 3. See, this time around Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria and the rest of their furry friends are destined for a whole new adventure altogether. Hoping to leave their native Africa and return to their former digs at Central Park Zoo, their plan to fly home goes seriously awry when they run into a top animal control officer named Capt. Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand, who’s clearly relishing her over-the-top role).

Much to any animal’s chagrin, one of Chantel’s main hobbies is hunting, and she’ll basically stop at nothing to ensure that sweet little Alex’s head becomes part of her living room’s décor. And with Chantal hot on these animals’ trail, the story now has more urgency than ever before.

Naturally, getting back to Manhattan isn’t quite as easy as anyone hoped, especially when the gang is forced to join a traveling circus to escape Chantel’s clutches. Hoping to make the best of their new situation, they do meet a few new friends on the journey, namely a Russian tiger named Vitaly (Bryan Cranston, Red Tails), a sultry jaguar who goes by Gia (Jessica Chastain, The Help) and a sassy sea lion, Stefano (Martin Short, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil).