“Do you want me to give it to you straight?”
When last we left our main characters from the first two Madagascar films they were stranded in Africa after being shipped from their home in the New York Zoo. We knew the sequel was coming. They couldn’t have left it any more wide open than they did. Of course, the reasonable questions were already being asked by the time the second film began. Do we really need another Madagascar film? Is there any new territory to explore? What could they possibly add to make us want to come back for more?
You’ve got questions? I’ve got answers. Do we really need another Madagascar film? Need might not be the right word here, but as I said about the second film: Everything you loved from the first film is back again. Dreamworks took the high road and brought all of the voice cast back. That means the wonderful chemistry these characters developed in the first film gets to continue. We don’t have to waste time setting up new bonds. We can get right to the adventure. Dreamworks also retained pretty much the entire animation team and added even more talent. Of course, technology is only as good as what you do with it. We get lovable characters in very interesting situations. If you even liked the first two films, I think you’ll get some entertainment from this one.
Is there any new territory to explore? The answer to that question is yes. This time the gang find themselves in Europe trying to find a way back to New York and the Zoo. It all starts in Monte Carlo, where the penguins are trying to raise enough cash to buy their way home. When Alex (Stiller), Marty (Rock), Melman (Schwimmer) and Gloria (Pinkett Smith) all crash the casino, it brings them to the attention of animal control agent Captain Chantel DuBois (McDormand). As the gang flees the captain, who wants to put Alex’s head on her trophy wall, they come upon a circus train. They lie and pretend to be American circus performers to get the animals to take them in. The penguins use their Monte Carlo winnings to buy the circus in the hopes that a promoter who is scheduled to see the show will offer them a contract to tour America. And, it’s home sweet home. The circus is made up of a new collection of interesting characters. Gia (Chastain) is an Italian Jaguar who falls for Alex. Stefano (Short) is a happy seal, and Vitaly (Cranston) is a Siberian tiger who has lost his nerve after a horrible accident years ago. Along the way, the gang’s lies give the performers confidence, and the circus is built into a brand new spectacular show of lights and fireworks. But Dubois is constantly on their trail as they travel from city to city, country to country.
What could they possibly add to make us want to come back for more? Of course, they added 3D, what else? It was pretty much inevitable that the third entry would get the 3D treatment. It’s become the big trend in movies today, and third chapters were always natural game for the third dimensional power-up. The look does help to add to the character designs, but only minimally. Here the 3D is used mostly for bright spirals and the usual pointy objects in your face. Truth be told, it doesn’t really add anything to the experience. You won’t lose out at all by saving a couple of bucks and seeing it in a standard setting.
The film involves the usual slapstick and cat-and-mouse games that have been entertaining kids long before the Coyote has been chasing the Roadrunner. In fact, I swear I heard a couple of beep beep’s. The new characters are interesting enough, but this is really kid’s fare and doesn’t have a whole lot to feed the adults in the audience who came to entertain the kids. You get tons of morals about deceit, friendship and the whole grass being greener routine, but not enough to make this a summer tentpole film. The folks at Dreamworks still offer the beautiful animation that has been the hallmark of most of their animation features. It’s bright and shiny and will appeal to kids and raccoons. Still, it will pull in a few summer dollars, and I expect to see Madagascar 4 coming down the animation pipeline in the not-to-distant future. “I call it Phase 4 dash 7B.”