Within the first months after the premiere of "Savannah" on The WB, Jamie Luner as Peyton Richards had slept with her best friend's husband, hit her lover over the head with a bottle, and stolen a pri...
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.
Played first leading role in a TV-movie, "Moment of Truth: Why My Daughter?" (NBC)
Joined cast of Fox primetime soap "Melrose Place"
Starred on "Savannah" as Peyton Richards
Appeared in TV-movie, "Rules of Marriage" (date approximate)
Won Los Angeles Shakespeare Festival for Single Monologues
Hired to replace the departing Ally Walker on NBC's "Profiler"
Played first bad-girl role, "Confessions of a Sorority Girl" (Showtime)
Co-starred in series "The Ten of Us"
Appeared in numerous TV commercials (dates approximate)
Within the first months after the premiere of "Savannah" on The WB, Jamie Luner as Peyton Richards had slept with her best friend's husband, hit her lover over the head with a bottle, and stolen a priceless Faberge egg. There was little doubt that a new bitch-goddess had been born on TV, as the redheaded, fiery Luner broke away from the pack on the series. Luner had not always been the "bad-girl." She began in front of the cameras at age three doing TV commercials and by age 15 had won the L.A. Shakespeare Festival in the category of monologues. Her first series role was as the dimwitted Cindy Lubbock on the ABC sitcom "Just the Ten of Us" (1988-90). Aaron Spelling and the producers of "Savannah" at first insisted she audition for the role of Lane, the sweet girl, and only allowed Luner to audition for Peyton at the end of the day, after they had seen numerous others. Her reading clearly impressed them and she landed the role. Luner has also appeared in a handful of TV-movies including "Moment of Truth: Why My Daughter?" (NBC, 1993), in which she was Linda Gray's offspring, and "Confessions of a Sorority Girl", a 1994 Showtime original in which Luner was first cast as a bad seed. In 1997, she added another sultry siren to her credit when she joined the cast of Fox's primetime soap "Melrose Place" and then segued to more serious work replacing Ally Walker as an FBI investigator in the final season (1999-2000) of NBC's "Profiler".
born c, 1966 together since 1995
divorced from Luner's mother
divorced from Luner's father
owns ceramic stores; older; born c. 1968
Beverly Hills High School
"My daddy carries every clipping [about me] in his briefcase. I said, 'Daddy, you must be tired of hearing 'Savannah' 'Savannah,' and he said, 'Are you kidding--it still brings tears to my eyes." --Jamie Luner in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, March 8, 1996
"When I tested for Lane, I was the straight girl; I had a nice little suit and jacket on. Then I went into the bathroom and let the hair down, put on a slinky dress, sauntered past all those girls in the waiting room, and said, 'Okay. I'm ready." --Luner in ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, March 8, 1996.