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.
A massive hit never ends at its own conclusion for better or worse. Lost Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland The Blair Witch Project and other pop culture milestones spawned plenty of imitators of wavering quality that trickled on to screens until the phenomena tapered off. Joyful Noise the new film starring Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton is one these auxiliary creative endeavors a direct descendant of the cheeky drama/comedy/musical hybrid Glee. But instead of teenage issues and pop covers Joyful Noise swaps in familial struggles gospel tunes and a sizable serving of Christian faith. The combination results in a movie that lacks the jazz hand energy of Glee but packs good-natured laughs to keep someone awake for its two hour duration. More "noise" than "joyful."
Mere minutes after the passing away of choir leader Bernie Vi Rose (Latifah) inherits the position—along with a serving of negative vibes from Bernie's wife G.G. (Parton) who was hoping to take the job herself. The new responsibility is only the beginning of Vi Rose's troubles as she attempts to balance her rebellious daughter Olivia's (Keke Palmer) raging hormones her son Walter's (Dexter Darden) Asperger's syndrome her husband's absence during a military stint and her own old school God-faring ways. Hardships are whipped into further chaos upon the arrival of Randy G.G.'s rambunctious horny grandson who shows up at rehearsal with an eye on Olivia and undeniable vocal skills. Randy's rock and roll edge is readily embraced by the group but even with the national gospel championship on the line Vi Rose isn't ready to toss tradition aside.
Joyful Noise is a mixed bag sporadically entertaining when director Todd Graff (Camp Bandslam) lets his two commanding stars flex their comedic muscles or belt soulful tunes. Latifah and Parton can do both with ease—Latifah has a natural charm while Parton essentially fills the "kooky Betty White" here—but instead of letting the two fly Graff breaks up the action with overwrought drama and bizarre side character stories. The script injects a lot of ideas into the picture—loss of faith modernizing ideologies coping with tragedy sexuality under the eye of God—but every tender moment is fumbled. A gut-wrenching conversation between Vi Rose and her autistic son should have weight and the actors do their best but the material doesn't service the emotional complexity of the scenario. Instead it opts to cut to a musical number. Another sequence involving the overnight demise of another character is even played for comedy even when it causes one woman to question her beliefs.
Thank God for the musical numbers which have enough energy to brush the flimsier moments under the rug. The Glee-inspired pop tune covers (Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror " Usher's "Yeah"—both tailored with religious modifications) aren't nearly as interesting or powerful as the straight-up gospel songs. But unlike the tunes Joyful Noise doesn't have rhyme or reason. A mishmash of played out character stereotypes narrative cliches and enjoyable but erratic music the movie feels more like a cash-in than it should. Latifah and Parton are a sizzling duo but the vehicle built for them is a clunker. As Vi Rose might say the only way to have a great time at Joyful Noise is to believe. Really really hard.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced nominations for the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards today from the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif.
As expected, the unusual suspects received the most nominations. HBO's mob drama The Sopranos led the pack with 20 nods, including a nomination for best drama. HBO's now-defunct series Sex and the City, meanwhile, was the most-nominated sitcom, with nods in 11 categories, including best comedy series.
The late John Ritter, who died Sept. 11, 2003, received a nomination for best comedy actor for 8 Simple Rules.
New shows and exclusions, however, added some excitement to an otherwise predictable slate of nominees. Most notably, NBC heavy hitters Friends and Frasier failed to receive nods for best comedy series, despite it being each show's final season. Fox's Arrested Development, however, beat out the two powerhouse sitcoms to grab a best comedy nomination.
The 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, hosted by Garry Shandling, will be broadcast live on ABC from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sept. 19. For a complete list of nominees, please visit Emmys.com. Nominees in the top categories follow:
Outstanding Drama Series
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Joan of Arcadia
The West Wing
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
James Spader as Alan Shore, The Practice
James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, The Sopranos
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, 24
Martin Sheen as President Josiah Bartlet, The West Wing
Anthony LaPaglia as Jack Malone, Without a Trace
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, Alias
Amber Tamblyn as Joan Girardi, Joan of Arcadia
Mariska Hargitay as Detective Olivia Benson, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano, The Sopranos
Allison Janney as C.J. Cregg, The West Wing
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Victor Garber as Agent Jack Bristow, Alias
Brad Dourif as Doc Cochran, Deadwood
Michael Imperioli as Christopher Moltisanti, The Sopranos
Steve Buscemi as Tony Blundett, The Sopranos
John Spencer as Leo McGarry, The West Wing
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Robin Weigert as Calamity Jane, Deadwood
Tyne Daly as Maxine Gray, Judging Amy
Drea de Matteo as Adriana La Cerva, The Sopranos
Janel Moloney as Donna Moss, The West Wing
Stockard Channing as Dr. Abigail Bartlet, The West Wing
Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Everybody Loves Raymond
Sex and the City
Will & Grace
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Larry David as Himself, Curb Your Enthusiasm
John Ritter as Paul Hennessy, 8 Simple Rules
Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane, Frasier
Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Friends
Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, Monk
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Patricia Heaton as Debra Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, Friends
Bonnie Hunt as Bonnie Malloy, Life with Bonnie
Jane Kaczmarek as Lois, Malcolm in the Middle
Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jeffrey Tambor as George Bluth, Sr., Arrested Development
Brad Garrett as Robert Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Peter Boyle as Frank Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane, Frasier
Sean Hayes as Jack, Will & Grace
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Doris Roberts as Marie Barone, Everybody Loves Raymond
Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Sex and the City
Kristin Davis as Charlotte York, Sex and the City
Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes, Sex and the City
Megan Mullally as Karen, Will & Grace