Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012)

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Typically, family movies are either highly enjoyable or an abomination to man with very little middle ground.  A family can either go to the theater and everyone have a wonderful time (Toy Story, E.T.) or the parents are drug to the film and leave the theater liking their kid a little less (Chipmunks, The Smurfs). Dreamworks animation has somehow found that very elusive middle ground where the films aren’t universally acclaimed nor are they a highly torturous 90 minutes for anyone over the age of 12.  These films are consistently entertaining while being watched and instantly forgettable afterwards.  Although lately the company has been making some strides with better films such as How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda.  With Madagascar 3, the company finds itself once again in middle of the road territory with a movie that cannot be loved or hated.

When one sees the four main characters of the series, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Sebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), they have gotten tired of African living and are ready to somehow get back to the creature comforts that the Central Park Zoo affords them.  At the end of Madagascar 2, the penguins (who always steal the movie) left for Monte Carlo with the promise they would soon be back to take them home.  When they don’t return quick enough, the animals take it upon themselves to travel to Monte Carlo to find their ride home.  In an amusing caper scene, the four, with the help of the Lemurs plan how to get the penguins’ attention.  Their plan fails miserably when they can’t decide who is in charge and crash through the ceiling onto unexpected guests.  I thought that the “who is in charge” plot would be something carried through the movie and was surprised when it was barely mentioned again, but that is par for the course with this series which is interested more in gags than character development and strong stories.

Because Bryan Cranston has to be in 15 movies every year, one way or another.

A lion and friends crashing a casino is bound to get on the radar of the officials in town and soon enough the feared animal control officer Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) who will stop at nothing to (literally) get Alex’s head on her wall.  To avoid capture, the group join a European traveling circus who just so happen have a chance to start an American tour in New York City.  The group joins forces with the circus to make it to America and of course learn lessons along the way.

Here is the thing. It isn’t a bad film.  The voice actors are all very comfortable in their roles and give off an easy charm.  The supporting players, including the penguins and lemurs, are amusing and the additions of the cast including Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain and Martin Short as circus members are very welcome.  Yet, I can remember very little about the film and was not engaged with the story on any level.  People who think that these type of films are only good for entertaining little ones for 90 minutes at a time have never seen such films as Up, Iron Giant, Millions and many more films that touched people from age 2 up to 90.  Compared to those films, Madagascar 3 falls short because there is not much there beyond the surface of scenes made to take advantage of the 3-D and the afro circus polka dot song.

Afro Circus Afro Circus Polka Dot Polka Dot Polka Dot Circus

Lets talk a little bit about that song.  Anyone that has children have been exposed to that earworm of a song for months thanks to the constant ads on children’s TV shows.  I find it interesting, since I am a marketing person by profession, that the last month of the campaign, the marketing team threw everything else by the side to promote the song exclusively for 30 seconds at a time.  They knew what kids wanted so forget about plot, characters or any semblance of a normal preview.  It is POLKA DOT REMIX TIME.  These commercials were a slap to your senses but it worked for the target demo and the movie opened #1 with over $60 million.  The song would have been one thing if it was in the movie once and over after 10 seconds or so, but they did the same gag 3 or 4 times including a long remix over the credits.  I strongly believe that damn song will be stuck in my head until I take a drill to my frontal lobe Pi style.

Tangent about the polka dot song aside, I can’t really recommend this movie to people.  Will you hate yourself after seeing it?  No, it is a very serviceable movie.  Will your kids like it?  Of course, there is enough gags, action and 3-D effects to keep even the most ADHD riddled kid enthralled not to mention AFROCIRCUSPOLKADOTAFROCIRCUS! Yet, the very idea that the film is happy enough to glide through with just enough smarts and charm to not be hated is faint praise.  For family movie, you could do worse but you should also expect so much more.

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Posted by Ryan

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