When it comes to Dreamworks, Madagascar is their cash cow, pulling in the dollars like there’s no tomorrow. Can the latest film combat the curse of the terrible threequel? Simply put, it’s wild ride through hell and back.
Madagascar didn’t just have to deal with the trials of a third entry, it also had the misfortune of being set in Europe, another curse that seems to plague sequels. Make no mistake, the film will take in dough by the bucket loads thanks to its family oriented entertainment but it just lacks the qualities that made the first two entries so memorable and rewatchable.
This time around, there’s a noticeable lack of focus on story, with the basic tale merely serving as a vehicle for the numerous gags, jokes, and chase sequences that populate the film. These gags are very much in line with what we’ve come to expect from the franchise and it won’t disappoint anyone looking for more of the same.
More of the same doesn’t mean that it is dull though, it still produces smiles and laughs frequently but know that the story, characters, and perhaps most importantly, the message of the film has been put on hold to give you these laughs…so you better damn well laugh if that ain’t the stuff you’re looking for!
The story plays out as such: the penguins leave Alex the lion and his friends behind when they go on their trip to Monte Carlo using their jet. Alex expecting them to return eventually loses hope and summons the gang to find the penguins. Somehow they manage to get to Monte Carlo sans transportation and plan a daring retrieval of the crafty birds in black and white but in doing so find themselves on the other side of the law with captain Dubois – animal catcher extraordinaire - hot on their trail. They eventually join a circus as a way to avoid the heat but are in over their heads when they end up owning it too.
It’s clear that in the case of Madagascar, star power was picked over talent. The original Madagascar troupe have their signature mannerisms and personalities but the new menagerie just doesn’t stack up with their poorly executed European accents – Bryan Cranston plays the role of Vitaly, a circus tiger, but his voice work would barely count as a russian stereotype. Overall the quality just hasn’t been brought to the table this time around.
The visuals however are as sharp as they always were with the stylised look still ever present and stunning, the 3D doesn’t enhance it and the gimmicks will definitely appeal to youngsters (they’re irritating for everyone else). What is truly new to the franchise is the bizarre adoption of the personification of the animals who tend to act a lot more like humans, this visually is explored to the full extent when the animals are swathed in enough flashy lights and eye candy to give even the most die-hard CGI geek an ocular toothache. It’s all fun, senseless fun that once again will please children.
Dreamworks always aims to please all their audiences, that said, Madagascar 3 caters more towards younger viewers with its hyper-kinetic pacing and dazzling saturation of colour. There are moments of humour that adults can appreciate but the message and coherent story are dumbed down for the lowest common denominator.
The Bottom Line
Madagascar 3 tries to take the best of the previous entries and make it more approachable to the super young, they sacrifice plausible storylines to the point where it is nonsensical but that’s okay given the subject, the idea is to not take it too seriously and rather sit back and relax. What is a shame is that the film abandons the strong sense of message that was conveyed so well in the previous entries and loses that special kind of charm – even the credit sequence is a paltry offering when compared to Escape 2 Africa, which I feel has been the superior of the trilogy. Nevertheless, the animal’s are back and they’re up to there usual shtick, the difference is the gimmiky 3D effects and the all ages appeal, it’s enjoyable but doesn’t carry the weight of the previous two, lingering as the drunkard uncle swimming in his own vomit: he’s a fun party animal but he just can’t pull himself together.