This movie was not terrible.
The Madagascar franchise, as a whole, has always been a fun, if somewhat un-ambitious ride through the “talking animal children’s movie” genre. They were never exactly the greatest movies ever made, but they were good when you needed to kill a rainy Sunday afternoon and you’d misplaced your copy of Finding Nemo. The three films together make, honestly, a fairly solid trilogy. Not brilliant, but solid.
Madagascar 3 is, hopefully, the final film in the series, and for the most part it does a pretty decent job tying everything together. It brings the characters full circle, returning them, finally, to their beloved New York, and unlike the previous film, it’s ending actually feels like an ending.
The film’s biggest strengths are probably its visuals and its score. Hans Zimmer wrote some amazing music for this, with its only real downside being that it sometimes sounds almost too impressive to be used in this kind of movie. If it ever clashed, it was because the story simply couldn’t live up to the music accompanying it.
The visuals were, as is fairly typical of Dreamworks, extremely impressive. Although most of the actual character animation was fairly lackluster, the scenes the characters were put into were gorgeous. The circus sequence, in particular – an insane, neon colored 3D extravaganza done, bizarrely, to Katy Perry’s “Firework” – was colorful, energetic, and visually stunning. Dreamworks clearly has a lot of talent at work here, and they’ve used every ounce of it in this one sequence.
I should also add that the villain in this movie, a French animal control officer played by Frances McDormand, was fabulous. Her visual design is quirky and bizarre, and her character, which lies somewhere in between a poacher and the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors, manages to pose a genuine threat to the animals while still remaining endearing and ridiculous. Of the new characters introduced, she was by far the best.
Where the film fails is, of course, with its story and its pacing. Everything feels rushed. The movie clearly wanted to be a story about these animals finding a new family for themselves with the circus, and having to choose whether or not they wanted to stay with them, or return home to New York. This is a very simple story that makes a good trilogy ending film, and could easily have been done very, very well. The problem is getting the characters to the plotline.
When we last left the animals, they were trapped in Africa waiting for the penguins to return from Monte Carlo. This is extremely far away from the setting the writers clearly wanted this film to be set in, and thus within fifteen minutes everyone has gone from Africa, to France, and then onto a train to Rome. Does that sound confusing and muddled? It is. This film’s opening sequence is one of the most needlessly complicated, rushed, and ridiculous things to have ever gone into a kid’s movie. To call the film’s transition from its previous installment “clumsy” is somewhat of an understatement.
Once the film calms down for a few seconds, we’re introduced to our new, friendly circus characters, some of whom are fairly interesting, and some of whom are rehashed Dreamworks stock characters and stereotypes. There is a good chance you have seen all of these characters before, and though they are used fairly well, it’s pointless to really discuss them. While there are some decently effective character moments for almost everyone involved, familiar protagonists and new faces alike, the film rarely pauses long enough for the audience to really get to know them.
Overall, Madagascar 3 is a fun, fast-paced, and colorful end to the Madagascar franchise. It, like its predecessors, is a great movie to bring rowdy, bored kids to, and will probably get a few laughs out of adults as well. Visually, the film would look awesome in 3D, but nothing is lost if you see it in 2D.
It is by no means a masterpiece, but it is certainly entertaining.
- Nelly Nickerson
Starring: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Frances McDormand.
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, and Conrad Vermon
Producers: Mireille Soria and Mark Swift
Screenplay: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
Music: Hans Zimmer