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.
Three major movie studio films opened nationwide Friday, including Jackass: The Movie, Ghost Ship and The Truth About Charlie--and it was the dumbest one that cleaned up at the box office.
Jackass: The Movie, the big-screen adaptation of the MTV series featuring a bunch of guys doing really stupid stunts, took in a rather tasteful $22.7 million, while The Ring chimed in second with a close $18.8 million. Ghost Ship finished third with a frighteningly real $11.7 million.
Sweet Home Alabama came in fourth with $6.4 million, while My Big Fat Greek Wedding placed close behind, taking in $6.3 million in its 28th week. Red Dragon lost steam in its fourth week, coming in sixth with $4.7 million.
Universal's The Truth About Charlie took in a tepid $2.3 million and averaged a low-slung $3,105 per theater at 752 runs.
THE TOP TEN
Paramount Picture's Jackass: The Movie opened with a strong ESTIMATED $22.7 million at 2,509 theaters ($9,047 per theater).
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, it stars Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Dave England, Ryan Dunn, and Jason 'Wee Man' Acuna.
Jackass' average per theater was also the highest for any film playing in wide release this week. The film is rated R for dangerous and sometimes extremely crude stunts, language and nudity, perfect for its target audience of youngish males up to about 30 in age.
In Jackass, Knoxville and his crew take the concept of the MTV reality series Jackass to the extreme.
"I've basically given money to a bunch of idiots saddled with enough dimwitted ignorance to try one bad idea after another," MTV Films President Van Toffer told Reuters Friday. It looks like the gamble paid off.
The film is the third best October opener of all time (if estimates hold) behind Universal's Red Dragon, which took in $36.5 million when it debuted three weeks ago, and Meet the Parents, which grossed $28.6 million when it opened on Oct. 6, 2000.
Jackass' take also bucks Paramount's series of under-performing openings, including Abandon, The Four Feathers and K-19: The Widowmaker.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated horror thriller The Ring came in second, although its ESTIMATED $18.8 million (+25%) take at 2634 theaters (+653 theaters; $7,137 per theater) is better than its opening weekend gross of $15.0 million. Its cume is approximately $39.7 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, it stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox.
Warner Bros.' R-rated horror thriller Ghost Ship sailed third with an ESTIMATED $11.7 million at 2787 theaters ($4,203 per theater).
In Ghost Ship, a salvage crew comes across the remains of a vessel thought to be lost for more than 40 years floating adrift in a remote region of the Bering Sea.
Directed by Steve Beck, it stars Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard and Desmond Harrington.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama dropped to fourth place in its fourth week, with an ESTIMATED $6.4 million (-33%) at 3,182 theaters (-100 theaters; $2,011 per theater). Its cume is approximately $107.2 million, heading for $125 million in domestic theaters and is the 16th film released in '02 to cross the $100 million mark.
Directed by Andy Tennant, it stars Reese Witherspoon.
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG-rated romantic comedy blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding went down a notch to fifth place in its 2th week, with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-12%) at 1967 theaters (-47 theaters; $3,211 per theater). Its cume is approximately $177.8 million, heading for $185 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Universal's R rated thriller Red Dragon, presented in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, fell three rungs to sixth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-46%) at 2886 theaters (-421 theaters; $21,635 per theater). Its cume is approximately $84.9 million, heading for $100 million.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's R rated romantic comedy drama Punch-Drunk Love expanded in its third week to a solid ESTIMATED $3.6 million at 481 theaters (+403 theaters; $7,277 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.0 million.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it stars Adam Sandler and Emily Watson.
The G rated animated feature Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie from Artisan's FHE Pictures and Big Idea Productions, came in eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.9million (-26%) at 1,625 theaters (+44 theaters; $1,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.7 million.
Directed by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, it was produced by Ameake Owens.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated action drama The Transporter slipped to ninth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-44%) at 1880 theaters (-730 theaters; $1,513 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.5 million.
Directed by Cory Yuen, it stars Jason Statham and Shu Qi.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Brown Sugar, which dropped five slots with an ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-47%) at 1,149 theaters (-229 theaters; $2,415 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.3 million.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, it stars Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan.
This weekend also saw the arrival of six new releases, including The Truth About Charlie, Paid in Full and Frida.
Universal's PG-13 crime caper The Truth About Charlie opened with an all too modest ESTIMATED $2.3 million at 752 theaters ($3,105 per theater).
The film is a remake of 1963's Charade, which starred Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
Directed by Jonathan Demme, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton and Tim Robbins.
Miramax Fims' R-rated urban crime drama Paid in Full opened with an ESTIMATED $1.4 million at 268 theaters ($5,224 per theater).
The film, set in Harlem, New York, in 1986, is about a young man who is lured into the seductive world of drug dealing.
Dirceted by Charles Stone, it stars Mekhi Phifer, Wood Harris, Kevin Carroll, Esai Morales and Chi McBride.
Miramax Films' R-rated biopic Frida opened to a solid $0.2 million at 5 theaters (a whopping $40,000 per theater average).
The film is based on the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo--from her complex and enduring relationship with her mentor and husband, Diego Rivera, to her life as a political, artistic, and sexual revolutionary.
Directed by Julie Taymor, the film stars Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd and Antonio Banderas.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $87.9 million, up about 19.53 percent from last weekend when they totaled $73. million, making this the seventh "up" weekend in a row.
The top 12 were also up 11.21 percent from last year when they totaled $72.47 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of K-Pax was first with $17.2 million at 2,541 theaters ($6,775 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of Thirteen Ghosts was second with $15.1 million at 2,781 theaters ($5,453 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $32.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $41.5 million.