Dreamworks Animation has always seemed like the Jan Brady to Pixar’s Marcia: cute and sweet but doomed to be forever overshadowed. This is likely due to the fact that, in terms of quality, Dreamworks has had almost as many hits as misses, a ratio that Pixar would scoff at and chuckle to itself while subtly gesturing towards the 4 Academy Awards on its mantle. For every How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and Shrek, there’s been a Shark Tale, Bee Movie and Shrek the Third. However, the reality is that it’s an unfair comparison because the two studios seem to have different goals: Pixar is all about creating a deeper, emotional connection with the audience while Dreamworks just wants to be balls-out entertaining and fun. And that is exactly where Madagascar 3 fits.
The football is Cars 2
After leaving New York for Madagascar and continental Africa in the first two films, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) decide it’s high time to head back home to the States. Unfortunately, they get stranded in Europe (along with the lemurs, the penguins and the Santa Maria – I mean chimps) where they are endlessly pursued by the vicious Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), who’s like some sort of…non-giving up…animal control gal. In order to escape, the gang hitches a ride on a train with circus animals led by Vitaly the Tiger (Bryan Cranston) under the pretense that they too are from a circus, but a different one. One you’ve never heard of… Yeah, that’s it. Luckily, the circus plans on heading toAmericaas long as they can impress an American promoter by showing him the best damn circus he’s ever seen. Sadly, they have the worst damn circus anyone has ever seen. Can Alex inspire the animals to rediscover their passion for the circus in time to put on an amazing show? Will the gang be able to outfox Captain DuBois long enough to get home? Will there be numerous interspecies couplings between animals that probably shouldn’t be mating? Yes. Also, ew.
If these two try to mate, at least the tortoise has protection
To Dreamworks for making a truly family-friendly movie. Family movies these days tend to actually be aimed solely at kids, meaning annoying characters, catchphrases and fart jokes. Unlike Shrek, which constantly threatened to turn into the Donkey show (and not the fun, Tijuana kind), Madagascar’s characters aren’t annoying and the story works to balance all of them, giving each of them little arcs of their own that are really sold by the performances.Cranston, especially, is fantastic in his portrayal of Vitaly as a deeply wounded animal.
Amazingly, there’s not a single fart joke to be had in this movie. The closest they get is a kid stuck in an elephant’s butt, but that is mostly in the background and is legitimately funny. You won’t be sitting for 90 minutes getting queasy from rolling your eyes so much if you take your kids to see this. The humor is varied, from visual gags to wordplay and puns, and there is something for everyone here to enjoy. The story may not be very deep or cerebral, but the filmmakers keep it light, fast and funny and it works. There also aren’t any scenes of the main characters about to burn to death in an incinerator, which means you won’t have to console your crying child or extremely emotional 25-year-old buddy, so that’s a plus.
For the love of God, I thought this was supposed to be a kid’s movie
There is a unique energy and overwhelming sense of joy to this movie, however. While watching, when I wasn’t laughing, I at least had a permanent grin on my face. The London circus performance and final rescue in New York are both exhilarating setpieces and exciting enough not to be derailed by the film’s heavy reliance on Katy Perry’s “Firework” during these sequences. Madagascar’s terrible song choice notwithstanding (should we be expecting LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” in Madagascar 4?), these scenes are worth the price of admission and look amazing. In fact, the whole movie is visually quite stunning, and is easily the best-looking Dreamworks animated film since How to Train Your Dragon. The 3D looks great and isn’t overly intrusive but is also not necessary to enjoy the film.
There were a few things that did bother me about this film, however. Jessica Chastain’s performance as Gia the Jaguar was severely hampered by the terrible accent she was saddled with. I have no idea what kind of accent it was so supposed to be, but to be fair, I don’t think Chastain did either. Almost every word was a struggle, as though her dialogue was a Rubik’s cube she had to solve with her tongue. To put it in perspective, it was a relief when Martin Short as Stefano the Sea Lion would come on screen and spout lines in his over-the-top, Mario-esque Italian accent because, although ridiculous, at least it flowed. I also felt that there was no drama in the gang going from never having performed in a circus to suddenly being expert circustitians after a single inspirational speech, making it seem like the easiest thing in the world to do. I imagine after watching this scene, a real circus performer would get up out of his chair in disgust and twirl out of the theater on an aerial silk. Also there was that Katy Perry song. I mentioned that, right?
For some reason this didn’t make it into the movie
Madagascar 3 is a fun flick that will keep you and your family entertained for 90 minutes without making you regret having kids because of the movies you’re forced to take them to (I’m looking at you, Alvin & the Chipmunks!). In this day and age of recessions, war and real-life zombies in the news, what more could you ask for?
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: whenever there’s a joke at the expense of the French or the Canadians or the French-Canadians
Chug a Beer: when you start humming “Firework” to yourself
Take a Drink: whenever Gia the Jaguar butchers another line with her terrible accent
Finish the Bottle and Become a Sad Drunk: as soon as you realize that animals in the circus probably aren’t as happy as this movie makes them out to be