Just when it seemed like Madagascar had fallen into the same predictable cash-cow trough as DreamWorks staple Shrek - dreary sequels wheeling out creaky characters - it creates this refreshingly bizarre follow-up.
Europe’s Most Wanted seems uncommonly aware of the series’ strengths and weaknesses: it goes big on penguins and sensibly parks the neurotic yearning of its lead four animals, which had already grown insufferable by the end of the first film.
In place of paper-thin character arcs we have speed and stupidity. So it’s off to Monte Carlo on the trail of the runaway penguins, without bothering to reintroduce the New Yorker heroes.
A short calamity later they’re the target of mean French animal control officer Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), whose ludicrous physical carryings-on are at odds with the style of the series to date but trigger enough old-fashioned cartoon enjoyment for it not to matter.
That seems to be the guiding principle throughout - if it’s fun, it stays, while the trilogy’s deadweight is mercilessly dropped.
Otherwise there’s no easy way to explain the next shift - the introduction of European circus animals including Bryan Cranston’s impossible hoop-jumping tiger
While the laughter is manic, it’s also infectious and earnest.