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.
When you start out on a really popular television show, it's great. You have regular work, people start to know your name, you get recognized as your character everywhere you go. But what about when the show ends? Then what happens?
Those stars are remembered as their former characters for almost the rest of their lives. Hell, even Neil Patrick Harris, who's grown his stardom and made a name as a completely new character on How I Met Your Mother, still has to endure being referred to as Doogie Howser. Jenny Garth will always be Kelly Taylor. Alfonso Ribeiro will always be known as Carlton and he'll probably always have to deal with people teasing him about that fantastic Tom Jones dance. But how do you continue a career after you've charmed the masses as a single character for so long? Well, for some folks, hopping right back into television is the answer, and if the slate of new shows from the major networks and a few of the cable ones is any indication, that's the name of the game for the summer and fall television seasons.
It's a great time to be a comeback kid, so we've put together a list of our top ten not-so-new television faces that you'll soon find on the boob tube. Is it just us, or are a lot of these comebacks just grown-up versions of these actors' original roles?
10. Eddie Cibrian
Known for: Third Watch, CSI: Miami, CHEATING ON HIS WIFE WITH LEANN RIMES.
Characteristics: CHEATED ON HIS WIFE.
New role: Playboy Club key-holder, and Don-Draper-wannabe Nick Dalton (NBC's The Playboy Club).
New Characteristics: Nick's not married, but come on, he's a Don Draper-esque character in a club full of scantily-clad women. He would totally CHEAT ON HIS WIFE -- if he had one.
9. Wilmer Valderrama
Known for: Playing Fez on That 70's Show, dating Lindsay Lohan for three seconds.
Characteristics: Fez was generally desperate and pervy, his real-life relationship with LiLo didn't help dispel the theory that he wasn't acting
New role: Detective Efram Vega (NBC's Awake).
New Characteristics: Details are few and far between at the moment, but it's a drama that looks pretty fantastic. We're guessing there's little room for Fezzian shenanigans -- though there is room for the signature Fez look of confusion -- so we might see some serious acting from the former campy comedy star. I still hope he sneaks in one "Goodday."
8. Katharine McPhee
Known for: Losing to Taylor Hicks on Season 5 of American Idol.
Characteristics: Aesthetically pleasing, decent singing voice, accused of making it to top two for her looks.
New role: The underdog, a Broadway actress who miraculously scores the lead in a musical about Marilyn Monroe (NBC's Smash)
New Characteristics: Aesthetically pleasing, decent singing voice, is propositioned by the director because of her looks.
7. Laura Prepon
Known for: Playing (Hot) Donna on That 70's Show.
Characteristics: Spunky redhead, tomboy, outspoken, understated babe.
New role: Reincarnation of Chelsea Handler...also named Chelsea (NBC's Are You There, Vodka?)
New Characteristics: Spunky blonde, semi-tomboy, outspoken, understated babe, alcoholic.
6. Rachel Bilson
Known for: Playing Summer on The OC.
Characteristics: Bratty, spoiled, prissy, headstrong, obsessed with her long-term, super-nerdy boyfriend, but somehow ultimately lovable.
New role: Zoe Hart, headstrong, big-city doctor plopped into a small town (CW's Hart of Dixie).
New Characteristics: A little spoiled from big-city living, headstrong, lovably outspoken with a hint of bratty, surrounded by cute men.
5. Debra Messing
Known for: Playing Grace on Will and Grace.
Characteristics: Talented, artistic, perpetually single middle-aged New York woman surrounded by talented, successful gay men and Karen.
New role: Julia, a lyricist writing a Marilyn Monroe musical (NBC's Smash).
New Characteristics: Talented, artistic, middle-aged New York woman working with her talented, successful, gay song-writing partner, Tom.
4. Tim Allen
Known for: Playing Tim "The Toolman" Taylor on Home Improvement (and of course playing Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movies, but we're not focusing on that on that right now).
Characteristics: Grunts often, doesn't understand women, doesn't actually know how to use the tools he hosts a show about, has a wife and kids who love him anyway.
New role: A marketing director for big ol' sporting good store (ABC's Last Man Standing).
New Characteristics: Complains often, doesn't understand women, actually knows a thing or two about sporting goods (maybe a little too much), has a wife and kids who love him anyway.
3. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Known for: Kicking vampire ass as Buffy on...Buffy.
Characteristics: Dark, brooding sexpot with a killer instinct, a troubled past, and lots of trouble in her future.
New role: One of two twins who steals her deceased sister's life in order to escape her own demons (CW's Ringer).
New Characteristics: Dark, brooding sexpot with a killer instinct, a troubled past, and lots of trouble in her future (minus the vampires, ghosts, hellmouths and actual demons).
2. Mark-Paul Gosselaar
Known for: Stealing teen hearts as Zack Morris on Saved By The Bell, and continuing to be known as Zack Morris because his name is so hard to remember.
Characteristics: Charming, cocky, girl-crazy, very proud of his stupidly large cell phone.
New role: One half of a lawyer duo who refuses to play by "the rules" (TNT's Franklin and Bash).
New Characteristics: Charming, cocky, girl-crazy, thankfully has a very normal-sized cell phone.
1. James Van Der Beek
Known for: Crying incessantly on Dawson's Creek, abnormally large forehead, having little ability to translate Dawson fame to future career.
Characteristics: Whiny, sad, artistic (but overly confident about it), whiny, sad, whiny, SAD.
New role: A hyper-stylized, dickish version of himself (ABC's Apartment 23) .
New characteristics: Snarky, funny, not completely deplorable and not the reason I'll stop watching after Pacey and Joey break up.