I had pretty low expectations for Madagascar 3 in spite of the fact that I laughed out loud the first time I saw the trailer. I'm not sure why. I like animated movies, and the first two "Madagascar" films were a lot of fun for me. Perhaps it's that "3" appended to the title. It's rarely a good sign.
The theater was about one-third full, and two-thirds of those people were children. Many of them were noisy. As I waited for the movie to start I worried that these children would attenuate my enjoyment of the film. As it happens, my fears were 180 degrees out of phase with reality. The children added an energy to the film that I quite liked. They laughed at all the bits I'd seen in the trailers, the bits of physical humor I only smiled at, and the few gags I totally saw coming. Sometimes they even cheered.
I guess I like a film more when a noisy audience is making the right kinds of noise.
No lie, I had a great time. I laughed out loud more than once, and grinned ear-to-ear during some of the more ridiculous action sequences. There was also a semi-abstract sequence, sort of an animator's showpiece, that was used to delightful effect. I saw the film in 35mm, and could tell that while some of the 3D bits were "in your face" sorts of gags, that particular abstract segment might actually be really cool in 3D.
Madagascar 3 was just the break I needed today, I had low expectations, and the audience helped the movie along. Also, it delivered the unexpected callback, the surprising-yet-inevitable climactic moment with serious flair. So it comes in #3 for the year on my list of "how much I enjoyed myself at the theater."