Film Review – Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Oh, where do I begin with a film titled Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012)? This is a film franchise that I had very little to no affinity for when I walked into the screening for its latest entry. This time around, we find our animal friends Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), King Julian XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen), and the penguins and the monkeys (oh my!) still trying to find their way back home to the Central Park Zoo in New York City. However, their quest gets sidetracked once again, leaving them traveling through the many sights and sounds of Europe’s vast countryside.
Walking out of the film, the strangest thing happened. I could feel two parts of my personality debating the merits and faults of the film. For young children, this may be something they would enjoy, but the same thing may not necessarily apply to their parents. There are a number of pros and cons when it comes to this movie; let’s take each into consideration:
Pro: This was a slightly better film than I had anticipated. I went in with very few expectations, and as a result I got more than what I was expecting, from a straight entertainment perspective.
Con: The only way I could imagine adults enjoying this would be to have their expectations at the same level as I did: near zero. This is clearly targeted for kids, and doesn’t try to be anything more than that. You can say that that is a benefit, but with animated films becoming more sophisticated and reaching for a higher standard recently, this film simply settles with being safe.
Pro: The animation is bright and vibrant. Colors burst and stand out very well here. Environments such as Monte Carlo and Rome are rendered very beautifully. I found myself admiring the backdrops a number of times.
Con: The 3-D hampers the quality of the backgrounds, and also distractingly shows how poorly designed some of the animals were. I must admit that I was a bit turned off by seeing Marty the zebra’s jagged chin pointed directly at my face.
Pro: We get a fairly straightforward plot here. The main characters, on their way to New York, catch the attention of Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), a French Animal Control officer whose main hobby is mounting animal heads on her wall. To escape this villain (who hunts down her prey as if she came straight out of the Terminator movies), our friends join a ragtag traveling circus in hopes of finding their way back to America. As they wait, they decide to reinvent the circus, with their own unique touch.
Con: Does anyone realize just how inept these animals are, being that they have spent three movies now with the exact same goal to get home, and yet still haven’t accomplished it? Remember, this is a group where you have penguins that work together like a military squad and an insanely rich group of monkeys. They can build their own plane and sneak into large crowds of people without being noticed. Are we really to believe that they are so unlucky that they can’t make their way back to New York in three different efforts?
Pro: We get to meet some interesting new characters in this traveling circus. Some include Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), a tiger who can’t perform the amazing trick he used to, and Gia (Jessica Chastain), a leopard that specializes in acrobatics and high wire stunts. These new faces bring a welcome freshness to the film, adding more texture compared to the cast regulars who have become a bit stale, with Vitaly and Gia standing out as the highlights.
Con: The number of new characters simply adds too much in an already over-bloated cast. Because there are so many characters to keep track of, none of them really make a strong impact—instead, they are glossed over to make room for everyone else. Storylines are presented but never truly fleshed out, and in the end none really earn a strong emotional response. The worst character in the film is Stefano (Martin Short), a sea lion that is so much of an Italian stereotype that he tiptoes the line of being offensive.
Pro: The movie’s success relies on its comedic gags. This is mostly accomplished by the supporting characters, such as the penguins, lemurs, and monkeys. Their commentary on what is happening, along with the gizmos and gadgets they incorporate to stop Captain DuBois, lead to some of the film’s laughs. The rest come from the gang trying to teach the circus animals new tricks. (Cue the expected montage of Alex teaching Gia an “American”-style trapeze routine, and Marty teaching Stefano how to be shot out of cannon, and we get the usual fish-out-of-water payoffs.)
Con: When the film’s comedy falls flat, it falls really flat. And the bad thing is that the filmmakers (co-directors Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vernon) tend to stretch out the bad jokes way past their effectiveness. Hearing Chris Rock’s voice sing out the song Afro Circus became annoying in mere seconds, and King Julien’s love story with the circus’s resident bear was focused on way longer than it should have been.
Final Thought: Kids will find an element of satisfaction in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, and I’ll admit there were a few things about it that I did enjoy. Certainly, I will not call watching the movie a bad experience. But to be honest with you, that’s not saying much.
Final Grade: C+