The Madagascar trilogy, according to most people, improved over time. In my opinion, however, Madagascar never truly improved - it instead merely changed. And while the writers had most of the necessary ingredients available here to make great comedic family movies, I can't help but find the three finished products problematic and incomplete.
The main problem with the first Madagascar is the fact that its plot meanders as soon as the characters reach the titular island. Sure, there is a good amount of entertaining stuff to be found in this movie, but the writers also failed to truly make the most of its interesting setting, and as a result the film quickly runs out of steam during the second half. The ending is also a big let-down and an obvious sequel hook. However, I’d still say this is the best Madagascar, mainly because it contains severel pretty good jokes and a solid, cleverly written first half.
But whereas the first movie suffered from not having enough story, Madagascar 2 seems to have too much story, and suffers even more because of it. Every character gets their own slice of the film here, but their individual capers feel more like a bunch of short films woven together. As a result, it has a weird TV movie feel. There’s more for the characters to do and the plot threads do eventually connect, but the film just isn't very interesting, merely amusing at best. It's serviceable, but still rather lacking, and the weakest of the three movies.
And finally, Madagascar 3, the best-reviewed of the trilogy. While I definitely think this is the most ambitious of the three movies, and it tried a lot of new things, I also find it a bit too chaotic and silly (plus, I've never liked circuses). That said, this is easily the one that children will love the most; it's the kind of colourful, energetic, slapstick-filled film that the young’uns will drink up. Thus, I’d say this is the second-best of the three.
Overall, the Madagascar trilogy is decent, but needed to be more complex, focused and consistent. The characters are witty and the animation is quirky and detailed in all three movies, but if the best elements of them could have been combined into one movie, we could have had an excellent family film. Sadly, this trilogy is like a puzzle not put together properly; some sections of it are done right, while others are noticeably incorrect.