The Madagascar animals are back and funnier than ever.
The Madagascar series of cartoons just seems to keep getting better. This third entry, which brings the animal's story full circle, is fast paced and consistently funny throughout. It does what the best animated films do and that is provide plenty of jokes for both the kids and the grown-ups in the audience.
At just 85 minutes, the story flies by. There's no room for any slack. It jumps right into the comic action and never lets up until the credits roll. Obviously there's not a deep backstory, but the script does assume that you're familiar with these characters and their origin.
In case you've forgotten, the story centers around Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo from the Central Park Zoo who are still stranded in Africa and hoping to get back home to New York City. In a bid to do just that, they join a traveling circus that is going to tour Europe before eventually traveling to the United States. Standing in their way is Captain Chantel DuBois, a French animal control officer who will do anything to add a Lion's head to her animal wall.
Overall this is a much better installment than the first Madagascar, but one thing it has in common with the original is that its funniest portion is the beginning. The penguins--who steal every scene in this series--have traveled to Monaco where, with the help of the monkeys, have begun gambling at the casino there and have been winning heavily. The other animals, at Alex's urging, have followed the penguins there in the hopes that the penguins will be able to use their monkey powered airplane to finally get them back to New York. What follows is a fun and funny chase through the streets and through the air of Monaco.
The jokes range from slapstick that all ages can enjoy to more sophisticated jokes that will go well over the heads of the children. For instance, when the circus lands in Rome, it's set up inside the Coliseum where Alex mentions that there's a history of lions performing there and that apparently his ancestors really killed whenever they appeared. When they arrive in France, the monkeys go on strike because it's pointed out that here the labor laws are so lax that you only have to work two weeks a year, which prompts Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) to quip, "Oh, so they have the Canadian work ethic."
Another reason the story works so well is that it wisely abandons any and all sense of realism. Not that the first two were exactly documentaries, but this time the filmmakers really embrace their surrealistic sense of humor, giving the movie a classic Loony Tunes cartoon feel.
There's already talk of a 4th installment and if it's of the same quality as this one, I'll happily go and see it. At the same time though, this one brings the story of Alex and company full circle and is such a nice ending that maybe they should stop them here and go out on their highest note yet.
Captain Chantel DuBois is a classic cartoon villain in Madagascar 3
Although I cannot heap quite as much praise on Madagascar 3 as Scott, I must write that he made a brilliant point when he wrote, "...the filmmakers really embrace their surrealistic sense of humor, giving the movie a classic Loony Tunes cartoon feel." This is a cartoon and as cartoon characters they do not need to abide by the laws of physics or common sense.
The films best moments come from those types of scenes. The early chase scene in Monaco is definitely in the vein of a classic Looney Tunes short. DuBois pursues the animals all over the city with desperate glee not seen since Coyote played the hunger games with the Road Runner. At one point Dubois is so caught up in the chase that she runs through walls. I also laughed when she inspires her men by singing like Edith Piaf.
Another good example is when Vitaly is shown jumping through smaller and smaller hoops. It is almost a direct nod to a Bugs Bunny short where the circus high diver goes from jumping into a barrel of water to jumping into a small glass of water.
The pace is great and only slows briefly when trying to create a sense of history for the circus. Try as it might to bring new characters into the gang, I really only enjoyed the addition of DuBois. With her single minded pursuit of an animal and a bossy attitude, she is a combination of Yosemite Sam and Sylvester the cat.
Of the original cast, I like Chris Rock as Marty. I still have his, "Circus Afro" song stuck in my head. These four friends already have a history and the scene where they come home to the zoo is sweetly sentimental. Like a young person coming home from the military or college, they discover that the zoo is not exactly how they remembered it. They have experienced far too much to go back to that life.
Madagascar 3 is not a perfect film, but it seems to have found it's footing, and for the first time, the penguins did not steal the film. I thought of Tintin when watching this. Compare the big chase scenes from each film. While Tintin took itself too seriously, Madagascar 3 is just out to have some fun, and isn't having fun what cartoons do best?
Photos © Copyright Dreamworks (2012)