This animated movie features many of the characters from previous Madagascar adventures. In the opening sequence, former Central Park zoo animals Alex the lion (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and a group of lemurs headed by King Julien XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen) are stranded on the plains of Africa. Too late, they discover that the penguins, led by Skipper (Tom McGrath), have built an aircraft that they plan to use to leave Africa. After the penguins go, the four friends worry that they will never leave Africa, so they decide to try snorkelling their way to Europe.
It all goes well at first, and they finally find the penguins in Monaco. But the penguins have been making the most of the gambling opportunities in Monte Carlo and have won a small fortune. They intend to use the money to go back to New York. Unfortunately, their plans are thwarted by French animal control officer, Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), who recognises the missing zoo animals and tries to capture and return them to New York.
To escape DuBois and her officers, the animals join a travelling circus. The zoo animals lie about their backgrounds so the circus animals will accept them. As the weeks pass, the zoo animals build friendships with Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain), Vitaly the Russian tiger (Brian Cranston), Stefano the Italian sea lion (Martin Short) and Sonya the bear (Frank Welker). These friendships are tested when the zoo animals’ initial lies are uncovered and their freedom is threatened.
This movie has many scenes where people are violent towards animals. For example:
- Captain DuBois and her officers verbally threaten the zoo animals many times.
- There are two scenes where Captain DuBois threatens to cut off Alex’s head with a hand saw, which she holds menacingly above him.
- Captain DuBois shoots darts at the zoo characters, who collapse onto the ground.
There are also scenes where the animals respond to human aggression with violence. For example:
- Alex the lion grabs Captain DuBois around the neck.
- An unnamed chimpanzee fires bananas from a plane’s machinegun at Captain DuBois.
- The penguins shoot Captain DuBois with her dart gun, and she collapses onto the ground. Later DuBois is shown bound and gagged inside a shipping crate.
There are also several violent episodes between animals. For example:
- Freddie the dog punches Stefano the sea lion in the mouth.
- Sonya the bear seems to swallow King Julien the lemur’s head but spits it again.
- Vitaly the tiger vents his anger by throwing several knives and meat cleavers at Alex the Lion and Stefano the sea lion.
Content that might disturb children
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:
- A dream sequence shows the animals as ghost-like figures.
- Captain DuBois acts like a bloodhound, and the scents that she detects create ghost-like visions of the animals she is tracking.
- There are several close-up images of Captain DuBois’s twisted, almost snarling features at moments when she’s very angry.
- When the animals first meet Sonya the circus bear, in a darkened freight train carriage, all they can see are two shining red eyes in the darkness. There is an unsettling growl, followed by heavy footfalls.
In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:
- Melman the giraffe climbs up and begins walking across a tightrope, but he freezes in fear. As a result, he slips several times and spins around the highwire, barely managing to hold on. Eventually, Gloria the hippopotamus rescues him.
- Alex the lion slips while running along the roof of a speeding train. He’s left hanging by one paw.
- Alex the lion experiments on the flying trapeze but falls off. He plunges towards the earth. He lands on the safety net, but children might think that he’s going to die.
- Stefano the sea lion is fired from a cannon and crashes head first into a rocky cliff face.
- Vitaly the tiger has flashbacks to a horrific fire that almost killed him. He is very frightened by these memories when he thinks about including a burning ring acrobatic stunt in the circus routine.
Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.
Nothing of concern
This movie includes some sexual references. For example:
- King Julien the lemur talks about his romantic feelings for Sonya the bear. For example, he says, ‘I want to kiss you from head to toe’.
- King Julien wears a feathered pink headdress, has a mincing gait and likes to burst into cabaret numbers. In one scene, King Julian says to Sonya, ‘Come here, my hairy queen’.
- After a passionate but rough encounter, King Julien says angrily to Sonya the bear, ‘No means No!’ Although children won’t understand this reference, the joke here makes light of a serious social problem.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example:
- A chimpanzee smokes a banana.
- An unidentified American financier smokes a cigar.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie shows some sexual activity. For example, in several scenes King Julien kisses, strokes, cuddles or climbs on top of Sonya the bear.
This movie shows or mentions the following products or brands: Ducati motorcycles and other movies, including the earlier Madagascar movies, Driving Miss Daisy, the James Bond series, and Austin Powers.
There is also a lot of marketing and product branding associated with this movie.
This movie includes some substitute swear words and several put-downs.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is an entertaining animated family comedy. You should note, though, that it does contain frequent violence, some scenes that might scare younger children, and some coarse language that children might imitate.
The main message of the movie is about the importance of trust and loyalty.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include helping others, cooperation, freedom and courage to get over personal fears.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as the:
- benefits of learning how to work together towards shared goals
- real-life consequences of the physical violence in the movie
- pros and cons of gambling
- consequences of lying
- ways in which our ideas about and attitudes towards animals shape the ways we treat them – for example, using animals for human amusement and profit, such as in zoos and circuses.
The movie could also be used as a springboard for discussions with your children about geography, as the animals travel across three continents during their adventures.