Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe are still fighting to get home to their beloved Big Apple and of course, King Julien, Maurice and the Penguins are all along for the comedic adventure. Their journey takes them through Europe where they find the perfect cover: a traveling circus, which they reinvent - Madagascar style. (from M80 Services)
Seven years ago, DreamWorks Animation debuted a new family of animals to "cute" their way into the hearts of animated movie fans. The story of Madagascar followed four animals from the New York City Zoo who, while being transported to a new location, are lost on the island of Madagascar. Along with this group--made up of a lion, a hippo, a zebra, and a giraffe--are four eccentric penguins and a pair of monkeys. In the film's first sequel, Escape 2 Africa, more ancestry is explored for characters like Alex the lion, but the film lacked on many different levels. Now the studio has released the third installment into the successful franchise, a silly, hyperactive adventure that unleashes our animals on Europe: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is the first chapter in the Madagascar series to be presented in 3D. As such, all kinds of gratuitous 3D shots and angles and gimmicks are noticeable whether you're watching it in 2D or 3D. Also, this film runs at a swift, almost exhausting pace. The jokes come at you rapid-fire and the action is almost just as nonstop, therefore giving this Madagascar a much different feel than the previous two movies. In all fairness, due to my disappointment in the 2008 movie Escape 2 Africa, I haven't seen that movie since the one time I saw it in the theater, but I have seen the first film several times over the years. The world that these zoo animals inhabit was always portrayed as a cartoony, skewed world, but Europe's Most Wanted takes things to the next level. In the first movie, humans saw the animals as real animals while viewers saw them a cartoons that speak english, and if they tried to communicate with the people, all they would hear are regular animal noises. By this third movie, it seems as though there's a heightened reality (well, even more so) where the humans might actually understand the animals (it's suggested at times, but never blatantly so). Also, the humans are wackier than ever. Captain Chantel DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand, is the head of animal control in Paris who has a run-in with the main foursome and seeks to destroy them at any cost. She's more over-the-top than any character in any of the three movies (and perhaps any other DreamWorks film?) as she's borderline a super villain. In one scene, we see her crawling on all fours tracking their trail, lapping water from a puddle and envisioning the path they travelled and seeing their path visually as a mist. In another scene, she is chasing after the animals while running through an office building, bursting through walls and even through a fully-stocked refrigerator as she pursues them. She's about as pyschotic a villain you can see in a PG-rated animated movie and she may be a tough pill to swallow with the film's first viewing.
And that in itself may be Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted's biggest problem. There's so much happening on the screen at any given moment, that even if you're paying complete attention to the film, you're still liable to miss stuff. A few moments do slow things down just enough to let the audience catch their breath a bit, but it isn't long before things are zipping along very quickly. While the story may not be as well executed as the first film, the humor is amped up and the silliness is at an all-time high. But it's a movie I can see getting better with each repeat viewing. Where Escape 2 Africa seemed to lack in some areas, and overuse characters that are meant to be used sparingly, Europe's Most Wanted feels like it plays most of its cards right. Julien's pals Mort and Maurice still feel out of place here, but they're used very minimally. Julien also ends up falling in love with a seemingly mindless, ugly female bear that appears to be the only "real," non-cartoony animal in the movie. It's pretty funny, albeit extremely bizarre, but it's that kind of strange humor that makes Madgascar 3 an enjoyably upredictable outing. When the "zoosters" (as the production folk call the main group of animals) join a circus to evade DuBois, we meet a new team of characters that end up being the best "new" characters introduced into the mix since King Julien in the first movie. The best of which is a dimwitted Italian sea lion named Stefano who is brilliantly voiced by comedian Martin Short. I loved Short's work in the 80s and it's exciting to see some of his work again, even if it's just animated. Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston is unrecognizable as a gruff-talking tiger named Vitaly, and Jessica Chastain wears a Latin accent to voice a love interest for Alex named Gia. The penguins also make a reappearance in the film, providing some of the best laughs as usual, and are used sparingly enough that I felt like there could have been even more done with them.
Plot-wise, Madagascar 3 is also a little all over the place. The crew bounces around Europe with little explanation as how they get from A to B (they do give adequate explanation, but you can't think about it too much from a realistic sense...especially since they can now drive cars and trains), and we see them in Paris, Rome and Monte Carlo before returning to the States. As a story, Madagascar 3 works excellently for ending the series as a trilogy. There's a distinct finish to the story by the film's end, despite there still being room for them to continue the story to a fourth film if they wished. However, I feel like it ends well enough with this movie that they should probably not overdo it by forcing a fourth chapter. I do like how the sequels have given the story a somewhat natural continuation in the animals' quest to return to the New York City Zoo. The first film closed with such an open-ended feeling that it has only seemed right to continue the story as they try to get back. Some have called Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted the best of the series and I think only time will tell if that is true or not. Story-wise, that is probably not the case, but there's so much fun packed into the running time of Madagascar 3, that it seems like a more likely choice for repeat viewings than the first two films.
The content for this series of movies has always been a bit edgier, just like the studio's Shrek counterparts. While there are no blatant profane words used this time around, the "Sugar Honey Iced Tea" exclamation by Marty in the first film (If you don't get it, assemble the first letter of each of those words into its own word. Yeah, sorry.) is matched this time by Marty exclaiming "I was flying! I was effin'-L-Y-in'!" (and that spelling is via the film's subtitle track). It's surprising and really not all that funny, so I'm not quite sure who's brilliant idea it was to put that in a kids movie. The other questionable word is more minor, when Marty refers to his driving like Mario Andretti and Alex says it's more like "Suckio Andretti." Other content includes some minor sensual references and a great deal of cartoon violence. Cartoons have had varying degrees of violence since the early 1900's, with even Disney cartoons being surprisingly violent, so it probably isn't too much of a shock to find loads of slapstick violence in Madagascar 3. Vitaly is a knife-thrower and he's often tossing sharp objects at other characters. Also, Captain DuBois is out to literally kill the animals, so she's seen with a hand saw ready to lop off Alex's head on a couple occasions, and she tries to shoot a poisonous dart at Alex in the film's climax. Everything else is mostly silly slapstick, but if your kids are especially impressionable and prone to imitation, this might not be the best movie for them to watch.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is a crazy, silly, but fun adventure that ought to close the book on the Madagascar tales. It just might be the best of the series (or at least, the most entertaining), but only time will tell if that is true. However, it's safe to say that the visuals in it are the best of the series and the filmmakers have done a great job whipping up an entertaining story with truly engaging characters. Fans of the series should love it, while those who didn't enjoy the previous films should only check this out if they love wacky, hyper and nonsensical humor in the films they watch.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 10/12/12)
The Animators' Corner, Trivia Track and Feature Filmmakers' Commentary (with Directors Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tom McGrath) - These are full-length feature film extras that play during the movie. They're three different options to give viewers a unique look into the making of the movie. "The Animators' Corner" is a Blu-Ray exclusive that provides a picture-in-picture of various crew members talking about the film as well as storyboards and test footage being shown in the corner of the screen as the movie plays behind it.
Big Top Cast (13:38) - This is a fantastic featurette that focuses on the Madagascar films as a trilogy and their progression over three films, as well as the celebrities behind each character. After covering the main four, as well as the penguins and Julien, they focus on the new circus characters and the main villain DuBois (Sadly, Frances McDormand didn't contribute to the video interviews or even the in-studio filming of her voice).
Deleted Scenes (6:18) - There are three scenes with optional "Play All" and introductions by director Conrad Vernon. "Melman Picks A Circus Act (Test)" is part of a dramatic insecurity squabble between him and Gloria that was deleted from the movie. The completed voice talent is there, but the animation is mostly storyboard drawings and rough CG. "Next Performance: New York City (Test)" features Eric Darnell (Director/Co-Writer) introducing the scene as being unnecessary info, but it involves DuBois discovering that the animals were going to perform in NYC. For "Lion Meet Venom (Test)," director Tom McGrath, explains that this scene was unnecessary as it's just DuBois beating up and wrestling a snake for its venom and then she acts out killing Alex with a dart on a little stuffed lion.
"Get Them To The Train" (4:41) - This is a Blu-Ray remote-played game. Here, the train rolls up and stops with a specific car designated to a character. You then choose that character from a group of characters and it gives you the option to pick a destination for them to be propelled out of a cannon. It's pretty easy and simple, but a cute little game for the kids.
Mad Music Mash-Up (1:00) - This is a one-minute promo that shows everyone dancing to the "Afro Circus"/"Move It" song.
Ringmasters (15:27) - This is a making-of featurette that focuses on a day in the making of the movie. We meet the separate directors and see them hold meetings together virtually via webcam. Then we see some test animation being cut together, followed by a special effects demonstration of what it might really look like to shoot bananas out of a gun. Next, they show Tom McGrath record his dialog as "Skipper" for scratch dialog taping, and it all ends with Martin Short being brought in to record some dialog for his character of Stefano. It's a really neat way to show the different ingredients used to make the movie that most animated films don't show to the viewer.
Madagascar 3 Roundtable (3:48) - The four actors of the main cast talk about working on the project and how they'd recorded their voices for the first film three and a half years before it released. It's great to see the crew together and talking about the whole process of making the movie, how it feels to be in a third one, and what it's like recording lines they don't know the context of in the finished film. Sadly, it's not even four minutes long and I would have loved to have heard more from the foursome talking about this (I'm sure they did record more, so it's odd how short this is).- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 10/9/12)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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