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.
The gay icon was saddened to read about recent incidents in which homosexual teenagers took their own lives after allegedly being bullied for their sexual preferences, and she has penned an open letter to teens who taunt their peers, telling them to stop their "relentless persecution".
Midler writes, "It is a sad, sad day for America when young people would rather die than endure one more day of hatred and relentless persecution.
"As a mother, I am ashamed of all the parents who have failed to teach even the most basic human lessons to their children: 'Live and let Live' and 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.
"The normal, everyday kindness that we took for granted just a few years ago is a thing of the past, and I for one, mourn it deeply."
The star is also convinced the internet has played a part in the new bullying culture, because tormentors can remain unidentified online.
She adds, "Technology, the Internet, with its anonymity, has allowed people to behave like beasts, pouncing on the weak and howling with laughter when they inflict a wound, that only the strongest could survive. What are we doing to ourselves? How are we to survive as a nation, when hate seems to be the only thing that motivate us?
"Four children are dead by their own hand because they just couldn't take any more. How many more are we going to sacrifice to the hyenas? Isn't it time to stop??"
Teenagers Seth Walsh, Asher Walker, Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg have all recently taken their lives rather than face the bullies ruining their lives, while the latest, Tyler Clementi, jumped from the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey last week (begs27Sep10) after his college roommate allegedly posted footage of him having sex with another man online.
The sexy star recently "evaluated" her own years of torment in Chicago, Illinois after reading up about the tragedies of Seth Walsh, Asher Walker, Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg, who all took their lives rather than face the bullies ruining their lives - and she realised she was once just like them.
Recalling the terror of her abusive youth on Tuesday's (05Oct10) Ellen DeGeneres Show in America, McCarthy said, "I would have girls wait for me outside of school with pipes, to beat me up... They were picking on me because their boyfriends would look at me on the way home.
"After hearing all the bully stuff, I kinda went back and evaluated what I was thinking, looking out the window... 'Why didn't I tell my mom? Why didn't I tell my teacher?' It was because I didn't want my mom or anyone to think I was weak.
"Then it got worse. By the time I got to high school, the girls... were throwing pies at my face, pulling out my hair, spitting on me and then the worst part was when they lit my hair on fire on the bus.
"I went to an all-girls Catholic school, need I say more. But we also went to school next to a public school, so we got on the bus, the city bus, and the public school (kids) got on the bus before us, so they'd just attack and be so vicious."
McCarthy became so terrified of school life she started staying at home to avoid the bullies: "I literally got a call from my high school saying, 'If Jenny misses one more day of school, she's not gonna get her diploma' and my mom was like, 'You've gotta go'. I was so terrified."
The actor is a long-standing supporter of the Trevor Project, a non-profit group dedicated to crisis support and suicide prevention for youths questioning sexuality issues.
He filmed a public service announcement (PSA) earlier this year (10) urging youths to "be proud" of who they are - and he's reiterating his stance in the wake of a string of apparent suicides linked to sexuality.
The most recent, the death of 18-year-old Tyler Clementi last week (begs27Sep10), sparked outrage after it was revealed his college roommate allegedly posted footage of him having sex with another man online.
And the actor is calling for the needless deaths to stop.
Radcliffe says, "Learning about the suicide deaths of Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Asher Walker, Billy Lucas and Justin Aaberg has been heartbreaking for me. These young people were bullied and tormented by people that should have been their friends.
"We have a responsibility to be better to each other, and accept each others' differences regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability, or religion and stand up for someone when they're bullied. When a friend is feeling depressed or says they're thinking of killing themselves, we must take it seriously and get them help."