Monday, 12 November 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

I hadn’t actually seen any of the other Madagascar films before seeing this. They never had any particular appeal – the art style struck me as a very expensive and laborious way of making creatures look ugly and plastic, and it all seemed a bit of an Ice Age mark 2, without any unique Dreamworks spin. Not that I have ever been particularly interested in Ice Age.

But I had a bit of interest in Madagascar 3. Perhaps it was in part thanks to the viral power of the silly ‘Afro Circus’ song – especially mashed up with things like Justin Bieber’s ‘Baby’ – which was probably all a forced marketing campaign but still worked neatly. It looked entertaining, if mindless and stereotype-driven.

And it was mindless and stereotype-driven, but that was no big issue. It was fun, and the ending was both more spectacular and cleverer than I had ever expected. I loved the overblown circus spectaculars and I loved the way once the main characters got what they wanted, they realized it really wasn’t what they imagined, or worth leaving behind what they had. The new characters got the bare minimum of development – except maybe the brilliant sea lion Stefano – but it was expertly done so that they were likeable and I cared about them, while the rapport between the central characters – well, I don’t know if it was that way from the start or something that developed, but the rapport between them was great. It’s an unlikely collection of voice actors – is it the only thing David Schwimmer is doing these days? – but sometimes throwing a group of unlikely companions together is exactly what works best.

As for what I said about the aesthetic being a very expensive way to look ugly, that’s really limited to character designs, and though they’re generic and not especially appealing, they do also manage the feat of imprinting themselves incredibly quickly and indelibly on the consciousness, and once there are unforgettable.

There’s not a lot at stake here, and the storyline written on paper is pretty dull, relying on the bouncing between two plots – the animals try to pass as circus performers while a crazy animal control officer hunts them – but the two are juggled deftly and the combination of acrobatics, bright colours and attractive locales including Monaco and London keep the piece engaging until the end. In short, nothing that will change lives or stun audiences by being wildly different from expectations, but well-written, funny and pleasant to look at. I would not be averse to checking out the previous films now, nor to spin-offs…though this would be a very neat way to end the main series, with the zoo animals finding their way back home and realizing that everything they’ve experienced on their journey means they no longer need it. 


  1. I saw the first Madagascar in theaters (2005 I think?) and didn't particularly like it. It was just too focused on hyperbolics and characters yelling and bouncing around all the time that the moments of actual story and drama were lost to me. It emphasized the modern theme of kids animation nowadays that characters yelling and falling and getting hurt is the only source of humor for them in movies. I didn't bother to see the second one but was invited by a friend to see the third one and thought "Why not?" Honestly, Madagascar 3 was one of the most over-the-top things I have seen. It had the same crazy antics as the first but cranked up even more (especially the scenes with that psycho animal control officer) and some things went a bit too far (did they really have to make the ring the tiger jumped through so impossibly small?) It did have some good parts though - the ending was nice to look at like you mentioned, and some of the characters were kind of memorable (I liked the sea lion too). But overall I can only say it was "okay."

    What did bother me about it though was the message it sends; that wild animals like being in the circus, and even that their talent has very little to do with being trained (often with abuse) by humans (seriously, the movie made it seem like the animals themselves were in total control of the circus - we only see the circus master, like, one time). I just hope the movie didn't encourage impressionable kids to want to go see circuses that use animal acts, which I'm very much against.

  2. Well, I expected that zany, over-the-top antics. I've never minded that too much - after all, golden-age animation is infinitely odder than anything here. 

    But yeah...I must say I wondered about the animals in captivity dynamic and thought maybe it had been covered before - especially since they realized how empty their lives were. I probably would have been harder on it if I didn't think it was possible it had already been dealt with. 

    It's probably because my expectations were very, very low but I enjoyed the film much more than expected.