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.
Michael Moore posts election reaction On his first post-election post, filmmaker Michael Moore gives readers 17 reasons not to slit their wrists.
"Ok, it sucks. Really sucks," Moore rants on his official Web site. "But before you go and cash it all in, let's, in the words of Monty Python, 'always look on the bright side of life!' There IS some good news from Tuesday's election." Moore, whose anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 took in more that $120 million at the box office, writes: "Gays, thanks to the ballot measures passed on Tuesday, cannot get married in 11 new states. Thank God. Just think of all those wedding gifts we won't have to buy now." What other silver linings does Moore see? "Admit it: We like the Bush twins and we don't want them to go away," he jokes.
Rape suspect appears on TV's Blind Date
A woman in Ventura, Calif., watching an episode of the TV series Blind Date, in which cameras follows two strangers fixed up by the show on their first date, called police when she recognized the man who had raped her 14 months earlier. According to the Los Angeles Times, the woman recorded the episode and turned the tape over to local authorities, who then contacted Santa Barbara police. Ulrick Kevin White, 31, was arrested on suspicion of raping and kidnapping the woman and is being held at the Ventura County Jail on $500,000 bail. White is also awaiting trial on suspicion of breaking into the Santa Barbara home of a 22-year-old student after allegedly following her home in November 2003. "The chances against seeing someone like that on TV are pretty astronomical," Det. Russ Robinson said.
Judge in Jackson case won't remove prosecutor
A California judge Thursday rejected a bid by Michael Jackson's lawyers to remove District Attorney Tom Sneddon from the pop star's child-molestation case, The Associated Press reports. Defense attorney Thomas Mesereau argued Sneddon had become so determined to convict Jackson that he had lost his sense of justice and bore a grudge against the singer that dated back to 1993. But Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Rodney Melville ruled during a pretrial hearing in Santa Maria there was no proof Sneddon had acted improperly or overzealously. Jackson, who is charged in a 10-count indictment with molesting a young boy and conspiring to cover up the crime, is scheduled to stand trial beginning Jan. 31.
Band Aid to rerecord "Do They Know It's Christmas"
Paul McCartney, Bono, Robbie Williams and Dido are among the performers lined up for the new recording of the Band Aid charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas," Billboard.com reports, again to benefit famine relief in Africa. Bono will reprise his famous line "Well tonight, thank God it's them instead of you," while McCartney will play bass on the recording, credited to Band Aid 20 to commemorate the anniversary of the 1984 release. Travis' Fran Healy, meanwhile, will play guitar on the track. "If it turns out absolutely s---, it does not matter," he told Billboard.com. "What I will say is you've got to buy the record because it's the only record that's going to save lives this side of Christmas, and you can't ask for more than that." The tune will raise money for the Band Aid Trust's famine relief in Africa, specifically in the blighted Darfur region of Sudan.
Steven Soderbergh opposes loud trailers
Ocean's Twelve director Steven Soderbergh has a gripe about trailers being too loud-and he's kicked his fight up a notch. Soderbergh voiced his concerns regarding the sound level at which trailers are played at a meeting held last month by the Trailer Audio Standards Assn., an organization whose goal is to uphold exhibition loudness standards. According to Reuters, the director's complaint was that trailer volume often leads moviegoers to ask theater managers to turn it down. But managers don't always turn it back up, which leads to movie volumes being too low. Soderbergh's criticism didn't fall on deaf ears: As a result, the Cinema Advertising Council (CAC) is putting together its first set of sound standards to govern the loudness of commercials and pre-show entertainment.
Cosmetics company sues Jessica Simpson
Cosmetics maker Cosmojet Inc. filed a lawsuit Oct. 21 in Los Angeles Superior Court against singer Jessica Simpson, claiming the singer owes nearly $200,000 for about $1 million worth of product shipped for her edible cosmetic line, Dessert Beauty Inc., which includes the products "Powdered Sugar Deliciously Kissable Body Shimmer." But in a statement to the syndicated news magazine Celebrity Justice, Simpson's spokesperson said: "Jessica Simpson is a spokesperson for Dessert products and has no involvement in the day-to-day operation of the company's business. Ms. Simpson has no knowledge whether Cosmojet's claim has any basis, nor does she have any responsibility for the company's accounting and billing procedures or payment obligations."
Two U.S. films win at London film fest
Jonathan Caouette's autobiographical documentary Tarnation, about an unsettled childhood scarred by his mother's mental illness, and Nicole Kassell's The Woodsman, which stars Kevin Bacon as a child molester trying to rebuild his life after 12 years in prison, won top awards Thursday at the 48th London Film Festival's final day, the AP reports. Tarnation, compiled from home movies, videos, snapshots and audio tapes and edited on simple computer movie software, took the trophy for best first feature, while The Woodsman won the festival's Satyajit Ray award for a first feature that "reflects the artistry, compassion and humanity" of the late Indian director's work.