Thursday, June 21, 2012

madagascar — third time's the charm

I was not expecting much from Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, except a chance to take the kid to a movie she might enjoy - and to soften the blow that I couldn't take her to see Rock of Ages — she LOVES Tom Cruise, but while I could justify letting her see him scale a building and evade death in the latest cartoony Mission Impossible fantasy adventure, simulating pool table sex is something she'll just have to wait to see when she gets older.

But back to Madagascar. It was really good. In fact the first two adjectives that spring to mind are funny and delightful. I thought the first one was O.K., and I have no memory at all of the second one, but for this one the filmmakers have created some new and funny characters and the whole production is energetic, bright, and colorful. The four main characters are back: Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). Directors Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon have wisely increased the roles of the quirky penguins, who have had success with their own animated television series, and reduced the role of King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), who is funny, but only in small doses.

The gang runs away and joins a circus
DuBois means business
The penguins are horrified by Monte Carlo's feather pillows
But the really welcome additions to the third film are Frances McDormand as the evil and bloodthirsty Captain Chantel DuBois and Martin Short as (not-very-well) trained seal Stefano, one of the members of a European circus troupe that the quartet is forced to join in order to hide from DuBois and to hopefully use to get back to their beloved New York City Central Park Zoo.

There is lots of subtle humor, mostly for adults, such as an ocean liner named the "Mal de Mer." It's full of slapstick and some exciting chases that bring to mind Wile. E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. The character animation is still a bit "computery"-looking, especially for the four main characters (maybe for consistency's sake with the other entries in the series). The other characters, especially DuBois, seem more detailed, and the backgrounds evoke Monaco, Africa, Italy, and all the other places the animals pass through. It's not ground-breaking animation, but it's entertaining and fun and a great afternoon at the movies. I may have even liked it a bit more than the kid.
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