Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon
Duration: 93 minutes
The gang is back for another cross-continental jaunt in a surprisingly effective (and very funny) entry for the series.
Arriving in 2005, in a period when Pixar’s dominance looked all-encompassing, Dreamworks dispensed a challenge to the throne with Madagascar. Success did not look likely when it came accompanied with middling-to-poor reviews, which accused it of being one-dimensional and clichéd, despite some humorous characters and a strong voice cast. It suffered critically because it lacked the multi-layered intricacies and groundbreaking animation of Pixar’s finest works (of the time period). Such films as, The Incredibles (2004), Finding Nemo (2003) and Toy Story (1995-). Consequently, it was easy to disregard the worth of this more traditional escapist fare. The audiences spoke in droves, however, with the original feature becoming extremely succesful and spawning a disappointing sequel in 2008, entitled, Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa.
Off the back of this mixed history comes this third instalment. The now-familiar troupe of misfits and comrades are still plotting a return to their native home of New York, only this time, they opt for a route across Europe. This will culminate in brushes with the French authorities and a frosty reception with a travelling circus with chaotic results. The starry voice cast all return, as Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Sacha Baron Cohen lend their voices to Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria and Julien, respectively.
It is easy for snobbery to creep in when assessing films, and to become haughtily unimpressed by simple satisfaction and crowd-pleasing gestures by film makers. This is highly unfair and unreasonable. For instance, does this film put a smile on the viewer’s face? Yes. Is it funny? Extremely. Does it out-stay its welcome? Not really – it wraps up in a neat hour and a half. All of these factors reflect positively on this addition to the Madagascar chain. In fact, it is the strongest of the three films so far. It is a rip-roaring ride that not only packs in a fast-moving plot, but also contains plenty of animation ingenuity. It looks as though this film has been lovingly crafted. As expected, there are bright colours, lots of noises, and strong gags. Julien is back with his funniest lines since the first film and the introduction of new characters replenish the lifeblood of all involved.
This does come at the expense of Melman and Gloria, however, who are sidelined slightly in this particular outing. Although fans may be disappointed with this outcome, it is most likely the result of honing the script down to bare essentials and trimming any excess that might enable all to get a fair airing, but to the detriment of telling the tale. Also, criticism could be levelled at a few of the plot excursions which have been seen before elsewhere. For example, there is a strand involving a moody and aggressive Russian circus tiger, Vitaly, who has a similar story trajectory and development as that of Paul Newman’s Doc Hudson in Cars (2006).
Such nit-picking as that above is pointless and unhelpful in the end. What matters is the expert execution and the feeling that this feature generates. Simply, it as enjoyable an animation that has been released all year and well worth the price of a cinema ticket.
If you like this, try this: Madagascar (2005) – Perhaps time to get re-acquainted with the group in their first outing and escape from the zoo in New York.
You can see the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted here: