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.
Actor Robert De Niro will be hosting 9/11, a CBS special on the World Trade Center attacks of Sept. 11. The two-hour program will feature exclusive footage from inside the complex, shot by two French brothers, Gedeon and Jule Naudet, who were at ground zero filming a documentary when the attacks happened. They were the only ones to capture the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.
De Niro is co-founder of the Tri BeCa Film Center, which is located just a few blocks from ground zero. Widely considered the quintessential New Yorker, De Niro was chosen as host for his long-standing association to the Big Apple. The show will air Sunday, March 10, at 9 p.m.
Latino singing sensation Gloria Estefan will help bring a little salsa to the Olympic Games closing night ceremonies Feb. 24 in Salt Lake City. Estefan will be singing a medley of her greatest hits, and won't that be fun?
ShoWest 2002 has picked Jennifer Lopez as their female star of the year. She'll be feted March 7 at ShoWest's gala awards in Las Vegas. Last year's recipient was Sandra Bullock.
Another match made in pop-singer heaven: Pop artist Jessica Simpson, 21, has announced her engagement to Nick Lachey, 28, of boy band 98 Degrees. No wedding date has been set.
Former Playmate and MTV queen Jenny McCarthy will be getting a dose of reality soon enough. She and her husband, director John Asher (Showtime's Going to California), are expecting their first child in June.
Bob Dylan's 1965 collection Highway 61 Revisited, Willie Nelson's 1975 breakthrough album Red Headed Stranger and Bing Crosby's popular single, "Swinging On a Star" were just some of the 55 recordings inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame on Thursday.
NBC Studios and the Jim Henson Co. have discussed a deal to develop and produce an original Muppet movie for this year's holiday season. It's a Wonderful Muppet Christmas will blend parodies of classic Christmas films with feature guest shots and cameo appearances from NBC stars. Plus, Kermit the Frog will apparently kiss Miss Piggy full on the snout.
Stop the presses! Joan Collins, 68, will be taking the marriage plunge--for the fifth time--this weekend. She'll wed her much younger paramour, 36-year-old Peruvian-born theater company manager Percy Gibson, at London's Claridge's Hotel.
Jada Pinkett Smith, the pixie-cutie married to recent Oscar-nominee Will Smith, says she and Will carry on like every day was Valentine's Day. "I know this might sound a little cheesy but we really try to celebrate Valentine's Day every single day," Pinkett Smith told The Associated Press. "We don't wait for the 14th to come around. We really, really try to do it every single day." That's sweet. Delusional, but sweet.
In a ruling Thursday, British pop singer Robbie Williams lost his copyright battle with Ludlow Music, who charged that Williams' song "Jesus in a Camper Van" substantially copied from the Woody Guthrie song "I Am The Way." The defendants will be expected to hand over 25% of the royalties earned from "Jesus in a Camper Van," as well as pay for all legal expenses.
Actress Jami Gertz, best known for her recent stint on Fox's Ally McBeal, is set to star as comedian and former SNL star Gilda Radner in ABC's movie It's Always Something: The Gilda Radner Story. Radner died of ovarian cancer in 1989. ABC plans to air the movie this spring.
The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint Wednesday to shut down Access Resource Services Inc. and Psychic Readers Network, the companies responsible for those popular psychic hotlines currently being hawked on television. The FTC objects to their rampant deception, and included a suit against the service's spokeswoman Youree Dell Harris, known as "Miss Cleo." Harris now has to prove she is a clever shaman from Jamaica. I guess she can't quite predict everything.