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.
So, we can all agree that last night was the best night of Teresa Guidice's life, right? Not only did her star-making vehicle, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, return to Bravo, she could also be seen on Bravo's big bro NBC in Celebrity Apprentice 12: Judgment Day. In my head, the Gorga/Giudice family is currently in turmoil, because Teresa wanted everyone to play at her house because her face was on TWO big shows on the TV. Melissa only had one show (A sentence which the Teresa in my brain repeated many, many times). Cookies were thrown in the garbage. Gia recited Latin verses in the corner. Joe Gorga was crying. Joe Guidice broke three teeth and hit a deer with his car, while Milania waited with lighter fluid and a match, ready to watch the whole thing BURN! You stupid mouse. Yay yay yay, welcome back to Jersey!
We began in the summer, which, according to Kathy, people from New Jersey just LOVE. People hate summer everywhere else. But this summer would be a difficult one for the Gorga/Giudice/Wakile/Manzo/Laurita bunch: Teresa's cookbook, "Cooking With Pasta and Passive Aggressive Insults" was a best-seller, and the other ladies all had varying theories as to why they were attacked. Just kidding! "She's jealous of me because she has an abusive, alcoholic jailbird husband" was the overall consensus. I mean, she even made up a front porch to attack Melissa. Things were getting serious.
At this point, it already seemed that this season of Jersey was going to be a total repeat of last season: Gorga vs. Giudice: The Reckoning. But then, from an inconspicuous patio chair, an angelic voice spoke up: "I'm not a good reader. I'm like all stupid." She's back! Rosie, Kathy's take-no-prisoners, sweatpants and hat lovin' lesbian sister, was back to put things in perspective for the rest of those middle-aged Bratz dolls. "It pisses me off a little bit," she said of the cookbook. "Because if anybody I love and care about is attacked, I'm going into freakin' protect mode, and I will rip your heart out and eat it." She's going to make this season so, so much better.
Unfortunately, before we get back to the Bratz dolls and their fun little outing to the Jersey Shore, something needs to be addressed: That horrible soul-sucking hipster, Ashlee/Ashley/Ashleigh/Whatever. Henceforth she will be called Useless. So, Useless was already physically preparing for a move to Los Angeles, stocking up on blonde hair dye, piercings, and bad decisions. (If this b**ch ever goes west of Doheny, I'll be waiting.) Jacqueline moaned and Chris fumed, until they eventually sent her to that magical place where all wanton children go to learn about morals and good decision-making: Las Vegas.
Back to the action: Right after Caroline created a rainstorm with her eyes to get Teresa to stop talking, the Gorgas, Giudices, and Wakiles headed to Toms River, a magical, untouched Garden of Eden on the Jersey Shore, where you can't even tell you're in Jersey anymore. (Not true.) Milania, my love, made packing a little difficult: "Yeah you stupid pooper!" she screamed at Gia, when Gia was commanded to help the boring one find her Ipod Touch. When Teresa told her to apologize, she responded with a definitive "I'm chewing gum."
Everyone had problems on the way: Teresa had to deal with her miserable husband pseudo-bragging (in front of their children) about his business trip with "ladies," Melissa was upset because Teresa said she'd leave Joe for a richer man, and Kathy had to figure out how she could have a decent vacation with all of these loons in her house. When the Giudices pulled up to their tiny shore shack that would undoubtably cause Camille Grammar to say, in horror, "There isn't enough space here for us," they faced yet another tiny dilemma. There was a mouse in their pool slide thing, which isn't really important but it led to Milania freaking out screaming "You better not come up here you little stupid mouse," so I was a fan of this scene overall. I was not a fan of the following scene, which had Joe Gorga saying "There's going to be lots of orgasms happening," so let's skip that and move on to the inevitable drama.
Teresa finally confronted Joe about the fact that he might be going to jail and was probably having affairs, and all of this gossip was appearing in national magazines. "That's the life you chose," he said with a disinterested scowl. You guys, I'm clearly no fan of Teresa, but her home life is heartbreaking. Of course, the rest of the family discussed her problems behind her back for the rest of the episode, until Grandma screamed "Enough!" Thank you. Enough. Rosie also offered some words of wisdom: "I always get along, because I'm not a threat to her. I'm chubby, she's skinny. She's got beautiful long hair, I've got short hair. She's got her big f***king glamourous house, I live with my mother." Bravo: MAKE ROSIE A HOUSEWIFE!
The next day, the gang hit up Jersey's beautiful white sand beaches. Joe Gorga and Teresa ruined the day by having one of those nonsensical, Housewives-brand arguments where no one ever really listens to each other, nothing gets done, and both parties leave worse for the wear. See: Any argument between Ramona Singer and Jill Zarin, ever. The Jersey housewives and husbands typically end these fights with a passive-aggressive "Let's move on" or "Let's just go forward," but everyone know that this is never going to happen. Bravo Andy has no time for happy people.
What did you think of the RHONJ premiere, you little stupid mice?
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Photo Credit: Bravo
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