Runaway animals tailed across Europe

While it may lack a little in charm and warmth, MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED (U: Paramount), the latest film in the animated comedy franchise, is technically brilliant.

Sunday, 10th February 2013, 7:55 am

Alex the Lion and co are still animals abroad and desperate to get back home to the New York zoo they escaped from.

Having made it to Monte Carlo, they join a European travelling circus as a means of travelling undetected.

But with a dogged French animal-control officer (Frances McDormand, a new addition to the voice cast) in hot pursuit, they soon discover that you have to be careful what you wish for - because you just might get it.

The ‘mobster’ penguins effortlessly steal a show that lurches maniacally from one haphazard scene to another, too often mistaking franticness for fun.

But despite its hyperactivity, it’s a good-looking movie and this goes some way towards compensating for the dimensions it otherwise lacks.

Character voices are provided by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith.

> If you loved the original, you should enjoy THE THREE STOOGES (PG: Twentieth Century Fox), an energetic tribute to the comedy trio from the Farrelly brothers.

The film cleverly captures the speed and wildness of their 1930s slapstick routines, but updates their antics to the present, allowing them to cause havoc in a world of smartphones and reality TV.

A flimsy plot gives Larry (Sean Hayes), Curly (Will Sasso) and Moe (Chris Diamantopoulos) the job of saving the orphanage where they grew up after they were abandoned on the doorstep as babies.

But they have grown up into bungling, accident prone maintenance men and as they try to raise money to keep the home open, they somehow get drawn into a murder plot with a femme fatale.

The story though is not the point here – it’s the performances. The three leads are terrific, executing the comically violent set pieces with vigorous aplomb and amazing precision.

Although primarily for fans, The Three Stooges is far more enjoyable than it perhaps ought to be and will appeal to all those who like their comedies dumb but well developed.

> Sensitivity combines with jump scares in twisting yet clichéd HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET (15: Momentum), a teen chiller perfect for the Twilight crowd.

Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence plays a new girl in town who unearths deadly secrets when she falls for a troubled outcast (Max Thieriot).

He is still living in the neighbouring house where his sister murdered their folks before disappearing without trace.

The two leads deliver strong and sympathy-inducing performances, creating characters that are surprisingly well drawn for a horror movie.

Unfortunately, the plot isn’t as accomplished, feeling like a patchwork of second-hand ideas.

The most interesting aspect - the underlying tragedy of events - is simply thrown away, lost amid a hole-riddled and lame cat-and-mouse climax.

Genuine tension gives way to irritating ‘shaky-cam’ visuals, signposted jolts and clumsy use of sound and score.