Music producer-turned-reality TV star Stevie J has pleaded not guilty after he was indicted on criminal charges stemming from his long-running child support case. The Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta star has endured a lengthy court battle with his ex-girlfriend Carol Bennett over allegations he has failed to pay her more than $1 million (£625,000) for their young son and daughter over the years.
Stevie J, real name Steven Jordan, is now facing a possible two years in jail after authorities took the case to federal court, and he pleaded not guilty to charges of failure to pay child support at a hearing in New York City on Tuesday (10Feb15).
After the case, he told TMZ.com, "Am I paying child support? I just left the kids in Philly (Philadelphia)... my kids can go through a cheque really quick... at the end of the day, my son wrote the judge a letter. I take great care of my children, all of 'em... Last time I was with you, you saw me (with them)... Those are the two kids they say I don't take care of, supposedly, but at the end of the day, we'll let them have their day, every dog get (sic) their day, I'm gonna wait for mine in court."
The 43 year old has six children.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Tina Fey, Julie Andrews and Tony Bennett were on hand to laud the talents of legendary entertainer Carol Burnett as she was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday (20Oct13). The funnywoman watched from the balcony of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. as she was honoured by her showbiz pals.
30 Rock creator Fey paid tribute to Burnett for inspiring her to get into comedy, telling the audience, "I love you in a way that is just short of creepy. I watched your show, and I thought: I could do that."
Meanwhile, Andrews thanked the Annie star for bringing out her naughty side during their longrunning friendship: "We're going on our 55th year of friendship. My squeaky clean image goes right out of the window when I'm with her."
But the laughter turned to tears for Burnett as crooner Bennett serenaded her with classic tune The Way You Look Tonight.
Burnett told reporters, "I'm overwhelmed, totally overwhelmed. I just hope after tonight they'll knock me down a few pegs because I think I'm getting a really big head."
The Mark Twain prize, named after the 19th century satirist, is America's highest honour for achievements in comedy.
If you've ever thought that holiday specials were too boring and safe, we have some good news for you: Lady Gaga will host a holiday special this year with the Muppets — presumably in an effort to keep things both festive and family-friendly. Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular will feature songs from the singer's latest album, Artpop, as well as some traditional holiday favorites. The hosts will be joined by special guests Elton John, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and RuPaul, ensuring that it will be the strangest holiday special the world has ever seen.
According to ABC, the show will be an "avant-garde twist" on traditional holiday variety shows, and is apparently a "dream come true" for Gaga, who has always wanted to perform with the Muppets. She is set to duet with Kermit the Frog and have the creatures join her for a new interpretation of her lead single, "Applause." And for those who would rather watch the puppets than the pop star, the Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal will be on hand to put a Muppet-y twist on classics like "Deck the Halls" and "Jingle Bells." The special will also feature a sneak preview of the upcoming film Muppets Most Wanted, which will hit theaters in 2014.
Gaga has a long history with the Muppets, having taken Kermit as her date to the 2009 VMAs and used pieces from Jim Henson's Creature Shop on her tours. However, her most famous Muppet-collaboration is the jacket she wore in 2009 that was made entirely of Kermit puppets, and might actually beat out the meat dress as the strangest thing she's ever worn. Hopefully, Gaga will avoid turning her co-hosts into clothing this time around, although we predict there will be some kind of fashion showdown between her and Miss Piggy. Gaga was also supposed to have made a cameo in 2011's The Muppets, but the sequence was cut for time.
This is the second holiday special that the pop star has hosted for ABC, after she headlined A Very Gaga Thanksgiving in 2011. That event featured a duet with Tony Bennett, a sit-down interview with Katie Couric, and a cooking segment with celebrity chef Art Smith, in addition to Gaga performing several tracks from her second album, Born This Way. She even got into the holiday spirit with a performance of White Christmas — although, in true Gaga fashion, she wrote a whole new verse for the song (which you can see below). It's hard to imagine how the superstar will manage to top A Very Gaga Thanksgiving, which was equal parts insane and entertaining, although we're personally hoping it involves an homage to the greatest Christmas movie of all time, The Muppets Christmas Carol.
Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular will air on November 28th at 9:30 pm.
Tina Fey, Julie Andrews and Tony Bennett will salute actress Carol Burnett when she is honoured with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor next month (Oct13). The Carol Burnett Show star will be feted at the Kennedy Center's 16th annual ceremony.
A statement from the actress reads, "I can't believe I'm getting a humor prize from the Kennedy Center. It's almost impossible to be funnier than the people in Washington."
Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Maya Rudolph and Lucille Ball's daughter Lucie Arnaz, and Burnett's former castmates Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence will also be on hand to celebrate the comedienne.
Previous honourees include Richard Pryor, Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell, Fey, Bill Cosby and George Carlin.
Comedienne Joy Behar celebrated her final episode as a panellist on U.S. talk show The View on Friday (09Aug13) with guest appearances from funnywoman Joan Rivers, actor Mario Cantone and veteran crooner Tony Bennett. The presenter was also treated to video tributes from Jane Lynch, Steve Martin, Carol Burnett and Debbie Reynolds as she signed off after 16 seasons on air. Model/actress Jenny Mccarthy will replace Behar when the 17th season of the show begins in September (13).
It's the biggest night in television. But will it be the most surprising one? Turns out, not quite. Though there were a few shockers during Sunday's 64th annual Emmy Awards — for instance, Homeland's Damian Lewis wins over Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston — ABC's Modern Family was, per usual, the belle of the ball with four Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy series. Other big winners of the evening? Showtime's Homeland — which also picked up four wins, including Outstanding Drama — HBO's Game Change — which won four awards, including Best Miniseries or Movie — and Louis C.K., who won Outstanding Writing for his FX darling Louie and Outstanding Writing in a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special for Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater.
Who else walked home with a gold statue? See the complete winners list below and be sure to check out our Emmys hub for all breaking news, interviews, and features surrounding the 2012 Emmys!
Outstanding Drama Series
Game of Thrones
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Ed O'Neill, Modern Family Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Modern Family Ty Burrell, Modern Family Winner: Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live Max Greenfield, New Girl
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series
Winner: Louis C.K., Louie
Lena Dunham, Girls
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Michael Schur, Parks and Recreation
Chris McKenna, Community
Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series
Winner: Steve Levitan, Modern Family
Robert B. Weide, Curb Your Enthusiasm Lena Dunham, Girls Louis C.K., Duckling Jason Winer, Modern Family Jake Kasdan, New Girl
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie Winner: Julie Bowen, Modern Family Kristen Wiig, Saturday Night Live Sofia Vergara, Modern Family Kathryn Joosten, Desperate Housewives
Outstanding Comedy Series The Big Bang Theory Curb Your Enthusiasm Girls Winner: Modern Family 30 Rock Veep
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Zooey Deschanel, New Girl Lena Dunham, Girls Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie Tina Fey, 30 Rock Winner: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep Melissa McCarthy, Mike & Molly Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock Don Cheadle, House of Lies Louis C.K., Louie Winner: Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Outstanding Made for TV Movie/Miniseries American Horror Story Winner: Game Change Hatfields & McCoys Hemingway and Gellhorn Luther Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia
Leading Actor in a Made for TV Movie/Miniseries Woody Harrelson, Game Change Clive Owen, Hemingway & Gellhorn Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Idris Elba, Luther Winner: Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys Bill Paxton, Hatfields & McCoys
Lead Actress in a Made for TV Movie/Miniseries Winner: Julianne Moore, Game Change Connie Britton, American Horror Story Nicole Kidman, Hemingway & Gellhorn Emma Thompson, The Song of Lunch Ashley Judd, Missing Outstanding Reality-Competition Program Winner: The Amazing Race Dancing With the Stars Project Runway So You Think You Can Dance Top Chef The Voice Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program Winner: Tom Bergeron, Dancing With The Stars Cat Deeley, So You Think You Can Dance Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race Ryan Seacrest, American Idol Betty White, Betty White's Off Their Rockers Outstanding Reality Program Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution MythBusters Antiques Roadshow Shark Tank Winner: Undercover Boss Who Do You Think You Are? Outstanding Nonfiction Series American Masters Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Inside The Actors Studio The Weight Of The Nation Winner: Frozen Planet
Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series The Colbert Report Winner: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Jimmy Kimmel Live! Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Real Time with Bill Maher Saturday Night Live Outstanding Variety Special Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute To America's Golden Girl Kathy Griffin: Tired Hooker
Winner: The Kennedy Center Honors Mel Brooks And Dick Cavett Together Again Tony Bennett: Duets II (Great Performances)
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Winner: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad Brendan Coyle, Downton Abbey Jim Carter, Downton Abbey Jared Harris, Mad Men Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad Winner: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey Joanna Froggatt, Downton Abbey Christina Hendricks, Mad Men Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Sarah Paulson, Game Change Frances Conroy, American Horror Story Winner: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story Judy Davis, Page Eight Mare Winningham, Hatfields & McCoys Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Ed Harris, Game Change Denis O'Hare, American Horror Story David Strathairn, Hemingway & Gellhorn Martin Freeman, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia Winner: Tom Berenger, Hatfields & McCoys Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Dot-Marie Jones, Glee Maya Rudolph, Saturday Night Live Melissa McCarthy, Saturday Night Live Elizabeth Banks, 30 Rock Margaret Cho, 30 Rock Winner: Kathy Bates, Two and a Half Men Guest Actor in a Comedy Series Michael J. Fox, Curb Your Enthusiasm Greg Kinnear, Modern Family Bobby Cannavale, Nurse Jackie Winner: Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live Will Arnett, 30 Rock Jon Hamm, 30 Rock Guest Actress in a Drama Series Winner: Martha Plimpton, The Good Wife Loretta Devine, Grey's Anatomy Jean Smart, Harry's Law Julia Ormond, Mad Men Joan Cusack, Shameless Uma Thurman, Smash Guest Actor in a Drama Series Mark Margolis, Breaking Bad Dylan Baker, The Good Wife Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife Winner: Jeremy Davies, Justified Ben Feldman, Mad Men Jason Ritter, Parenthood Outstanding Animated Program American Dad Bob's Burgers Futurama Winner: The Penguins Of Madagascar: The Return Of The Revenge Of Dr. Blowhole The Simpsons Outstanding Children's Program Degrassi Good Luck Charlie iCarly Victorious Winner: Wizards Of Waverly Place
Writing for a Drama Series
Winner: Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff, Homeland
Directing for a Drama Series
Winner: Tim Van Patten, Boardwalk Empire
Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad
Brian Percival, Downton Abbey
Phil Abraham, Mad Men
Michael Cuesta, Homeland
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Winner: Damian Lewis, Homeland
Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Winner: Claire Danes, Homeland
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Kathy Bates, Harry's Law
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Michelle Dockery, Downton Abbey
Glenn Close, Damages
Writing for a Variety Special
Winner: Louis C.K., Louis C.K. Live At The Beacon Theatre
Dave Boone, Written by; Paul Greenberg, 65th Annual Tony Awards George Stevens, Jr., Written by; Michael M. Stevens, Written by; Sara Lukinson, Written by; Lewis Friedman, The Kennedy Center Honors
Jon Macks, Written by; Dave Boone, Written by; Carol Leifer, Written by; Tim Carvell, Special Material Written by; Jeff Cesario, Special Material Written by; Billy Crystal, Special Material Written by; Ed Driscoll, Special Material Written by; Billy Martin, Special Material Written by; Ben Schwartz, Special Material Written by; Marc Shaiman, Special Material Written by; Eric Stangel, Special Material Written by; Justin Stangel, Special Material Written by; David Steinberg, Special Material Written by; Mason Steinberg, Special Material Written by; Colleen Werthmann, 84th Annual Academy Awards
Jon Macks, Written by; Steve Ridgeway, Written by; Mason Steinberg, Written by; Brad Lachman, Betty White's 90th Birthday: A Tribute To America's Golden Girl
Directing for a Variety Special
Don Mischer, 84th Annual Academy Awards Louis J. Horvitz, The 54th Annual Grammy Awards Louis C.K, Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre Alan Skog, New York City Ballet George Balanchine's The Nutcracker (Live From Lincoln Center) Winner: Glenn Weiss, 65th Annual Tony Awards
Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special
Winner: Danny Strong, Game Change
Ted Mann, Ronald Parker & Bill
Abi Morgan, The Hour
Neil Cross, Luther
Steven Moffat, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia
Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special
Winner: Jay Roach, Game Change
Philip Kaufman, Hemmingway & Gellhorn
Paul McGuigan, Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia
Kevin Reynolds, Hatfields & McCoys
Sam Miller, Luther
[Photo Credit: ABC]
Emmys Idle Threats: Give Steve Buscemi an Emmy or I'll Waste Away with Whiskey
Emmy Idle Threats: Give 'Game of Thrones' Emmy Gold or I'll Give (?) a Crown of Gold
Emmys Idle Threats: Give Lena Dunham an Emmy or Chris O'Dowd Will Yell at You
The magical R-rating is both a gift and a curse to Adam Sandler's signature brand of lowbrow humor. In That's My Boy the comedian returns to the dim-witted roots that made him a star in early outings like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore (complete with high-pitched mushmouth accent) but with a ramped up "ew" factor. Unrestrained Sandler piles on as many expletives and gross-out scenarios as a two-hour movie can hold — and it works out quite well. With costar Samberg nailing the disgusted straight man role Sandler's penchant for acting like a fool is enhanced by the sick stylings of director Sean Anders (Sex Drive) and only occasionally teetering into truly offensive territory. Laughs aren't guaranteed but the movie provokes (which is a big step up from Jack and Jill).
Back in the '80s Donny had a secret relationship with his teacher Ms. McGarricle that resulted in a son Han Solo (he's a middle schooler what do you expect?). The torrid affair put McGarricle in jail Donny into celebrity tabloid spotlight and Han Solo in the hands of a tween father. Thirty years later everyone's screwed up: Donny (Adam Sandler) is a drunk on the brink of jail time for tax evasion McGarricle's still in jail and Han Solo (Andy Samberg) now "Todd " is a successful number-cruncher with severe social issues. On the weekend of Todd's wedding Donny reenters his life hoping to bring revive their relationship and reunite him with his mother — that is on camera so Donny can make $50 000 from a gossip TV show and stay out of the slammer. Posing as Todd's long-lost best friend Donny stirs up trouble becoming buddies with Todd's friends and family and acting like a imbecile.
The wedding setup is overdone but always prime for comedy: plenty for a numbskull to screw up logical progression (there's a wedding at the end!) and a bachelor party scene to squeeze in the most disgusting bits and have them make sense. That's My Boy makes the most of its conventions — including what we all know and expect from a Sandler comedy — by continually one-upping itself. After a night of heavy drinking at the local strip club/omelette bar that results in do-it-yourself ear piercing and robbing a convenience store with Vanilla Ice Todd returns home to expel the night's worth of drinking all over his fiancee's wedding dress. Then he makes love to the dress. Then his fiancee (Leighton Meester) wakes up to find the dress. Then it goes even further than one would care to imagine. Grossed out yet? Amazingly lower-than-low brow material is handled with clever timing and great delivery. It's just that the foundation is bodily fluids.
That's My Boy falters when it throws in gags that serve zero purpose to the story. Strange racist humor a mentally retarded bar patron played by Nick Swardson (a Sandler mainstay) random allusions to Todd Bridges' drug habits — barrel-scraping one-offs that have nothing to do with the movie. At two hours the movie needs slimming and the fat is apparent. Thankfully the main ensemble goes to great lengths to make the hard R comedy click with Sandler and Samberg playing well off each other (although Samberg doesn't have the making of a leading man after this movie) and SNL alums like Will Forte Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer driving by to bring the funny. Even Vanilla Ice's extended cameo fits the anything-goes tone playing a version of himself that befriended Donny in his celebrity days. Now he works at an ice skating rink.
After a few lame ducks That's My Boy is a return to form for Sandler. It wavers in quality but it has energy and color. A cash-in this is not and for any Sandler fan with a stomach for hardcore bathroom humor it's a must-see.
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.