The Madagascar franchise separates itself from most film series, due to the fact that the movies have been getting progressively better. After the first film was written off as a generic “Family” movie, the series came back with a successful sequel. Honestly, I never expected to see any more of the franchise after the second film. We’ve reached the third movie in the series, but will it continue the upward trend of Madagascar?
Madagascar 3 picks up where the second film left off, with Alex (Ben Stiller), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), Melman (David Schwimmer) and Marty (Chris Rock) still living in Africa. Wasting no time at all, the plot begins to skyrocket toward the main events. The Penguins take off to Monte Carlo, promising to return and rescue the main cast. Deciding that the Penguins were taking too long, Alex inspires the crew to swim to Monte Carlo and scold the Penguins for leaving them behind. The first 30 minutes are mostly chase scenes, leading to the real story of the film: the traveling circus. This circus introduces a few new characters, such as: Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), Gia (Jessica Chastain), Stefano (Martin Short), and Carmen (Paz Vega). The circus turns out to be a sure way for Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria to get back to the zoo. In order to successfully make it home, though, they have to take on the problems of their new circus pals. Meanwhile, they are continuously hunted by the ruthless Animal Control woman, Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand).
The plot of Madagascar 3 is fairly thin, consisting mostly of “Run Here, Run There”. Granted, once the main characters reach the circus, there is more of a chance for the story to unfold and add back story, but the breakneck pace doesn’t leave much time to get into the depth of the movie. Madagascar 3 really does seem to fly by, with only a few scenes of talking or expanding the plot. Mostly, your time is filled with dazzling effects, action sequences, and chase scenes. I really didn’t mind the plot of Madagascar 3, I just wish they had slowed down for a few moments and let their story flesh out a bit. Thankfully, the ending of this movie does bring the Madagascar franchise full circle. I appreciated the closure that this film brings, but this does make another sequel questionable. Since Madagascar seems to be the “Benjamin Button” of movie franchises, maybe the 4th film would be the best in the series?
While the main cast still held their own in the film, I never found their characters to be particularly interesting in the first place. The introduction of these new characters creates a fresh feeling in Madagascar 3, instead of recycling the same jokes from the same cast. I was surprised by the overall quality of the voice acting, since there seemed to be no “weak links”. While I would absolutely say that the new characters outshone the original cast, I still think that Stiller, Rock, Schwimmer, and Pinkett Smith delivered fine performances. The one voice that particularly stood out to me was Frances McDormand. Not only did she pull off a french accent, but she gave a believable voice to an absurd character. Also, she belted out quite the rendition of “Non je ne regrette rien”.
The visual effects of Madagascar 3 are quite stunning. Whether you are simply looking at the characters or at the elaborate, stylish action sequences, you won’t be disappointed by how the film looks. The use of color and light become particularly entertaining towards the end of the film, making it more like watching fireworks than a movie. The unique design of the characters and villains continues to set the Madagascar franchise apart from other animated films, choosing style over realism.
The humor in Madagascar 3 will be a smash hit for any children in the audience, but adults may lose interest from time to time. While there would occasionally be a joke or situation thrown in the film that the kids wouldn’t get, they were muted by the relentless amounts of “kid humor”. Now, don’t think that I’m bitter, I understand this film’s target audience is children; I simply want to warn the parents that there won’t be a more than a few chuckles waiting for you in Madagascar 3. That said, the theater that I saw this in was consistently filled with the riotous laughter of children…You can’t really argue with that.
Lately, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the use of 3D in animated films. Not only is the 3D technology being used to enhance how you watch the film, but they have been avoiding the cheap gags that come with a 3-dimensional film. Madagascar 3 is not an example of well implemented 3D technology. Most of the film was standard 2D, only breaking out the 3D for objects and characters flying out at the screen. These gags were found in nearly every scene, avoiding any possible subtlety. I have no problem with a 3D movie, as long as it is used as a cinematic tool and not just a gimmick to try filling seats. Sadly, Madagascar 3‘s 3D element just gave me a headache.
Madagascar 3 has quite an interesting soundtrack, involving many pop songs and original compositions by Hans Zimmer. Now, if you know Hans Zimmer, you’ll already know about his fantastic scores from many blockbuster movies. Madagascar 3 seems to be one of the weaker collections by Zimmer, having only a few tracks that sound unique from any other family movie. Naturally, there are plenty of Pop songs littered throughout the film, most notably, “Firework” by Katy Perry and the iconic, “I Like To Move It” by Reel 2 Reel. This blend of Zimmer and pop music didn’t turn out as terribly as you might think, but it did leave the soundtrack lacking.
Despite all of my complaints, I still have to hand it to Madagascar 3 for making an enjoyable kickoff for the summer flicks. With a brief pace and plenty to look at, kids will have no problem cheering for this movie. The dialogue and subtle jokes will keep the parents entertained, but not as much as you might hope for. Madagascar 3 definitely makes up for a thin plot with fantastic voice acting, bright visuals, and plenty of humor. Madagascar 3 is easily the best in the franchise so far; hopefully this won’t be the final chapter.
I give Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted 3.5 “Afros” out of 5
By Blake Edwards