Alex (Ben Stiller), left, and Marty's (Chris Rock) getaway vehicle… (DreamWorks Animation,…)
It hasn't always been smooth sailing for Alex the lion and Marty the zebra, the pals at the center of the "Madagascar" animated films, but for two Central Park Zoo animals, they've certainly had their share of adventures.
After washing ashore on the titular island in the first film and crash-landing in the wilds of the African mainland in the second, Alex and Marty, voiced by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, respectively, find themselves back among civilization in"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," which opens June 8.
In taking up with a European traveling circus hoping to make it big in the U.S., Alex, Marty and their compatriots may have found their best, though riskiest, chance yet to return to the zoo.
"A lot of it is about going home," Stiller said in a joint phone call with Rock from New York. "The idea that they finally get a chance to get back to New York and what it means to go back home when you've grown up."
For the two co-stars, the film provided a chance to riff in their familiar dynamic.
"It's fun for Chris and I to get together every couple years and connect," Stiller said.
Rock joked, "Me and Ben make sure we're in the studio a couple of times, but for the most part it's like a U2 album — guys send in tracks and stuff, and then we get together to master the album."
Stiller said the film offers "a whole new landscape" and "a bunch of new characters," including Vitaly, a flinty Siberian tiger voiced by Bryan Cranston; Gia, a jaguar trapeze artist voiced by Jessica Chastain; and Stefano, a fun-loving Italian sea lion voiced by Martin Short.
While Alex looks to impress Gia, his zebra friend does some soul searching. "Marty is just trying to figure out where he belongs," Rock said.
The whole gang will have to evade Capt. Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), a dogged, Vespa-riding, Edith Piaf-singing animal-control officer with a wall full of taxidermy heads.
"Madagascar 3" will also be the first film in the series presented in 3-D. Rock is looking forward to the spectacle.
"I've never had a movie I had to put glasses on for," he said. Although, he added, "I've had movies that were so bad I wore glasses as I walked out of the theater."