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.
Undoubtedly motivated by a record-breaking box office weekend take of $114 million, Sony Pictures has set the opening date for its Spider-Man sequel. Spider-Man 2 will swing its way into theaters May 7, 2004 with stars Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst reprising their roles as Spider-Man and Mary Jane, The Associated Press reports. The film, which is based on Stan Lee's popular comic-book series, broke several box office records since its release Friday, including best single day gross and biggest per-screen average in history for a wide release.
High-powered multimedia mogul David Geffen is donating $200 million to the medical school at University of California, Los Angeles, which will now be called the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, according to AP. Geffen, the "G" in DreamWorks SKG, has donated to medical-related causes before: He gave $2.5 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, $2.5 million to the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York and $1.4 million to AIDS Action in Washington.
Ali director Michael Mann wants Tom Hanks to star in his next film about the Roman invasion of Britain. According to Ananova.com, Mann wants Hanks to play Julius Caesar. Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Colin Firth are also tipped to feature in the film.
Robert De Niro is set to reprise his role in Warner Bros.' sequel to the 1999 crime comedy Analyze This, aptly titled Analyze That. The film will reunite De Niro with Raging Bull co-star Cathy Moriarty-Gentile, who will play a mob widow who takes over her late husband's business, Variety reports. De Niro will resume his role as the emotionally troubled Paul Vitti.
In the Biz
Director David Fincher (Panic Room) is in discussions to helm a remake of the 1975 supernatural thriller The Reincarnation of Peter Proud for Paramount Pictures. According to Variety, the project got off the ground last year when studio-based producer Scott Rudin optioned the rights for the remake.
Real-life heroine Erin Brockovich has settled a libel lawsuit by her ex-husband, Reno, Nev., stockbroker Steven Michael Brockovich, the AP reports. In the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in March 2001, Brockovich accused his ex-wife of libel, slander, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress for stating in two publications that he didn't pay child support for their daughter.
The World Wrestling Federation Entertainment Inc. has dropped its WWF name for a new moniker. The company will now be known as World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., or WWE, Reuters reports. WWF officials cited the company's losing battle with the World Wildlife Fund over the infamous initials as a factor for the switch, Reuters reports.
MTV has ordered eight half-hour episodes of a musical sketch/comedy show from the Bomb-itty boys--GQ, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Erik Weiner (aka Red Dragon) and J.A.Q.--the writing/performing team of the Off Broadway hit The Bomb-itty of Errors, Variety reports. The show is slated to air this fall.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, schlemiel, schlimazel, Hasenpfeffer Incorporated! Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams will reunite for Laverne & Shirley Together Again. The show will air at 8 p.m. tonight on ABC.
Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, the TV production company behind That '70s Show, will cut up to 25 percent of its staff over the next few weeks, according to Variety. A spokesman for CWM said the cuts are part of an effort to keep the company a lean, profitable operation in a competitive TV environment.
Michael Jackson, Tonos Entertainment and AOL have launched a songwriting contest offering fans a chance to collaborate with the self-proclaimed King of Pop, the AP reports. Jackson will record the winning submission, possibly including it on an upcoming album. All proceeds will go to children's charities. The contest runs through June 10.
The family of an Argentinean pop star who was killed in a rollover accident while driving his 1998 Ford Explorer on June 24, 2000, is suing Ford Motor Co. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. The family filed the suit in the U.S. District Court in Miami after a Buenos Aires court ruled that the singer, Rodrigo Bueno, was at fault.
Norwegian director Even Benestad's documentary on his transvestite doctor father, Alt om min far (All About My Father) has won top honors at the 9th annual HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Variety reports. Montreal's Andre-Line Beauparlant took home the director's honor.
Comedian/writer Judy Toll died Thursday at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., after a long battle with melanoma. She was 44. Toll most recently served as a consultant on HBO's Sex and the City, Variety reports.