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.
Hollywood.com is on the scene at the 55th Cannes Film Festival, seeing the films and sipping with the stars. Check in every day to get the latest!
Day 2: All bets are not off as to who will be the grand winner of the coveted Palm D'Or award, but on the beach, all tops seem to be off! The smell of suntan oil wafts over the Croisette as the crowd settles in very early in the morning to get a bird's-eye view of the stars and their escorts on the sand, including George Lucas, Natalie Portman, the Arquette sisters and many more.
Yachts are multiplying overnight. Beautiful ships are moored all along the rocky shores. Troma (famous for The Toxic Avenger series) is throwing their post-screening celebration at an antique ship docked in the Old Port. During the past two festivals the bodacious Troma team shot footage all over Cannes. The resulting film is All the Love You Cannes! - An Indie's Guide to the Cannes Film Festival. One of Troma's biggest claims to fame is turning Madonna down very early in her career. When she begged to be in one of their movies they told her, "Don't call us, we'll call you!"
Last night, into the wee hours, a moonlit dinner was served on the banks of the Mediterranean to 600 of Woody Allen's closest friends in honor of his latest flick Hollywood Ending opening the Cannes Film Festival." Enjoying the French cuisine at the same table with his wife, Soon Yi, was Treat Williams and Debra Messing. (Tea Leoni couldn't come. She's so pregnant, it's possible she's delivering at this very moment!)
Maybe it was the pure temptation of the chocolate dessert, curled and imprinted to look like film, as well as a huge disc of chocolate carved like a film canister, but Messing left early.
This morning the ultra-thin comedienne was spotted sashaying through the Martinez hotel lobby on the way to her room. Messing wore a gorgeous tangerine dress that seemed better suited for a night of tango rather than an early morning stroll. Star etiquette must require that you wear a brand new ensemble every single time you leave your suite.
May 16th should just be declared George Lucas Day and let the force be with us all! As part of today's worldwide opening, his Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones, will make its legendary debut tonight as Cannes' first-ever digitally screened film. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda--I mean Ewan McGregor and Frank Oz, along with petite beauty Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, will traverse those crimson stairs tonight.
And there is another force along the Croisette that is being taken seriously--and that is woman power! "We need to start a revolution," smiled its wanna-be leader, Rosanna Arquette, who is making her directorial debut with Searching for Debra Winger. Flanked by her sister (and her movie's star) Patricia Arquette, quite chic in her jewel-encrusted olive corduroy pants and a T-shirt painted with Rosanna's film, a documentary featuring a series of candid and intimate conversations with such actresses as Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone, Meg Ryan, Julianna Margulies, Teri Garr and Jane Fonda on how they balance art, career, family and issues of ageism in the entertainment industry.
Looking stunning in white bell-bottoms and a pink-and-white halter, Rosanna made clear, "I'm not here to say I'm a great filmmaker. That's why I call it a Rosanna Arquette experience. And by the way, today is Debra's birthday!" The big news here is that the sisters were adamant that contrary to popular belief, this isn't a bitchfest in any way and the actresses were all quite supportive of each other.
Sounds like a happy Hollywood Ending to this chapter…