143/ReprisePlaying yuletide songs outside of December always seems rather inappropriate. But there are several 'festive' standards that have as much right to be blared out in the blazing hot summer as in the run-up to the big day. Here are five Christmas favorites that have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas at all.East 17 – "Stay Another Day"The track which pipped Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" to the U.K. number one spot back in 1994, boyband East 17's signature hit has become a staple of the holiday season across Europe. But despite its use of sleigh bells and an accompanying snow-filled video, the ballad is in fact a heartfelt tribute to chief songwriter Tony Mortimer's brother, Ollie, who had committed suicide several years previously.Frankie Goes To Hollywood – "The Power Of Love"Taken to the U.K. number one spot by Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1984 and then again by Gabrielle Aplin last year, the message of "The Power Of Love" may be in keeping with the season of goodwill ("make love your goal"). But there's not one mention of Christmas during its epic production and the track has only become synonymous with the festivities because of its nativity-themed promo.Aled Jones – "Walking In The Air"Another track which has become associated with Christmas due to its accompanying visuals, "Walking In The Air" was written by Howard Blake for the animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs' much-loved children's book The Snowman. Played during the boy and the snowman's journey to the North Pole, the soaring lullaby has perhaps inevitably since become a choirboy favorite but it still contains a distinct lack of anything Christmassy."Jingle Bells"Recorded by everyone from The Beatles to Buble, "Jingle Bells" has been a yuletide favorite for over 150 years, largely thanks to its copious amounts of snow. But snow isn’t confined to Christmas and the jaunty ditty was actually written by composer James Lord Pierpont to be sung at Thanksgiving rather than December 25th."Baby It's Cold Outside"Recently covered by the likes of She & Him and Kelly Clarkson & Ronnie Dunn, "Baby It's Cold Outside" has been a seasonal favorite ever since its writer, Frank Loesser, and his wife, Lynn Garland, premiered it at their housewarming party back in 1944. But again, the track has become so ingrained in the festive season because of its Arctic weather conditions rather than anything particularly Christmassy.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.