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.
Whether he's bashing former President George Bush or slamming Wall Street's infrastructure, filmmaker Michael Moore always has an opinion. So there's no wonder he has something to say about conservative rocker Ted Nugent's latest spits about President Obama and Mel Gibson's most recent rants. Hollywood.com caught up with the infamous Fahrenheit 9/11 director/producer at the Tribeca Director Talks Sunday in NYC — and Moore couldn't help but imagine a documentary about the two headline-baiting celebrities.
"I've always liked Ted's music — and for a long time, I thought this whole rock 'em sock 'em Motor City Madman thing was just an act, but I guess it's real," Moore told Hollywood.com. "Can you imagine him and Mel Gibson on a road trip?"
That's a plotline that would make Hunter S. Thompson jealous. But what if Moore were to direct a documentary about their antics? "I think you just call it Crazy," he said. "There's already a song for the sound track, 'Crazy' [singing Patsy Cline's hit]."
Were Nugent's words crazy enough to warrant a meeting with the Secret Service? (The musician had said if Obama was re-elected, he'd be "dead or in jail by this time next year.") Moore thinks so. "Every threat against the President has to be investigated," Moore said.
The director even felt the Army was smart to cancel Nugent's scheduled concert at Fort Knox — despite Nugent's basic freedom to rant. "I think he has the right to say anything he wants," Moore said. "It's a free country. And the army, and me, and you have the right to not want to listen to his music or put concerts on." But Moore didn't stop with just Nugent. After all, there are plenty more figures in 2012's upcoming election. Including Mitt Romney, who's rumored to be considering a hosting gig on SNL to connect with the voting public. "Oh, I would watch it — I would watch it hoping for the trainwreck," Moore said. "I mean when [Sarah] Palin did it... I mean seriously, they shouldn't do it. They think it's making them look cool, but with Palin, it was just 90 minutes of letting her have it. So, if I were advising him, I would tell him not to do it. But I'm not."
In the meantime, who else is hoping to see a Crazy documentary? More: Ted Nugent: I'm a Black Jew at a Nazi-Klan Rally