Judge Patrick Naugle's heart grew three sizes this day.
Three times the excitement!
Dreamworks has certainly been rivaling Pixar in terms of box office success, no less so than with their Madagascar franchise. Begun in 2005, the first Madagascar was a hit, as was 2008's follow-up Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Not surprisingly, a third entry hit theaters in 2012, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, which has most certainly paved the way for the inevitable Madagascar: All 4 One and One 4 All. Until then, let's take a closer look at this Blu-ray combo pack care of Dreamworks Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
When we last saw Alex (Ben Stiller, Meet the Parents), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith, Tales from the Crypt presents: Demon Knight), Marty (Chris Rock, Pootie Tang), and Melman (David Schwimmer, Friends), they were still in Africa, longing to return to New York City. Collecting their old friends the penguins, the foursome finds themselves on the run from rabid animal control officer Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand, Fargo). When Marty, Alex, Gloria, and Melman stumble across a traveling circus, they promptly purchase it (don't ask me how, they just do) and take over, much to the disdain of one of the circus's tigers, Vitality (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad), whose self confidence is at an all time low. With the help of the other animals—including a goofy seal (Martin Short, Father of the Bride)—our heroes hope to find a way back to America. Or they may forever be riding the rails, performing parlor tricks all across France.
Talking animals. According to every animator working in Tinsel Town, that's what it's all about.
Talking animals make up 99 out of 100 animated movies. The remaining 1% is about talking toys. Hollywood apparently believes when it comes to animating something, monkeys and dogs are the bee's knees (get it? Bees! Ha). This is why we have so many movies featuring animals from land, sea, and air with human personalities. Unfortunately, for every Finding Nemo there are about a dozen Alpha and Omegas.
I was not one of the people who found the original Madagascar very endearing. If I'm being honest, I don't really recall much about it, except that I found it flat and redundant. Needless to say, I didn't check out the sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, so I can't tell you what happened to the four main characters in that film. So I went into Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with a bit of indifference, the third entry not holding a lot of promise, despite a 78% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Madagascar 3 isn't a great movie, nor is it a bad movie. It just kind of is. There are amusing moments, but the ideas and execution are stale and uninspired. How many times must I sit through stories involving animals trying to get home? This time, Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria join up with a European circus and, well…they have wacky adventures being in a European circus (a zebra wearing an afro should give you an idea at the level of humor we're dealing with). There's the requisite comedic musical number breaks, utilizing a popular song sung oddly by some offbeat character; action scenes to rival any Hollywood stuntman's career; and famous celebrity voices that try hard to not sound like themselves, except for Ben Stiller who always sounds like Ben Stiller.
The best thing about Madagascar 3 are those rascally penguins who have become the breakout stars of the series. A mix of Hogan's Heroes bravado, film noir smugness, and Cary Grant smoothness, the penguins (who have also had their own television spin-off, The Penguins of Madagascar) make the film worth seeing. Comedy fans will enjoy hearing a plethora of talent as supporting characters, including Andy Richter (Andy Barker, P.I.), Cedric the Entertainer (Larry Crowne), Jessica Chastain (The Tree of Life), and Sacha Baron Cohen (The Dictator). Special mention to Francis McDormand as the French animal inspector, whose ridiculously funny accent and animated facial expressions are exceptionally well-executed.
I laughed a few times, then found my attention wandering. I have no doubt small children will absolutely eat this up (it did gangbusters at the box office), but adults may find it rather uninspired monotony.
Presented in 1.78:1/1080p high definition widescreen, the transfer is truly stunning, with colors that practically pop off the screen. Dreamworks has put a lot of effort into making these visuals near flawless. The animation is gorgeous (especially during the cityscape sequences) and the picture retains a clarity that will make home theater enthusiasts swoon. The TrueHD 7.1 Surround track is lively and sonically enveloping, featuring tons of surround opportunities and directional effects. I couldn't find a single issue with this mix. Also included are alternate language Dolby 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish, as well as English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Bonus features includes a commentary from directors Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon, and Tom McGrath; picture-in-picture functionality with in-depth info on the making of the film ("The Animator's Corner"); a "Get Them to the Train" mini-game; a pop-up trivia track; a short look at the voice talent ("Big Top Cast"); a few deleted scenes; a musical montage ("Mad Music Mash Up"); a couple brief behind-the-scenes featurettes ("Ringmasters", "Madagascar 3 Roundtable"); a standard def DVD and digital copy; and your very own rainbow colored afro wig.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is pure kid stuff, with a few amusing moments that will make adults smile. I can't really recommend the film to anyone over the age of fifteen, but as family entertainment goes it gets the job done.
Just what you'd expect from any family film with a "3" in it.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.