Great Trilogies Come in Twos
Published: Sunday, June 10, 2012
Updated: Sunday, June 10, 2012 15:06
It’s incredibly difficult for an animated series to come back to theaters with a third installment with the same witty screenplay and clever plot lines that made the first two phenomenal. Beyond having the same writers and directors as the previous two films, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted proves to be a less funny, more hallucinogenic animal with a serious case of ADHD. Unfortunately, this is not the time when one can say “great trilogies come in threes.”
Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath — the directors of the previous two Madagascar films — and written by McGrath and Conrad Vernon (Monsters Vs. Aliens), it’s fair to expect from these proven filmmakers an incredibly solid end to this trilogy.
The general plot of the Madagascar trilogy is simple: Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) leave Central Park Zoo in order to find an escaped Marty who turns up in Grand Central Station. Seeing how there’s a hippo, lion, giraffe and zebra in public, the gang is captured and shipped to a wildlife preserve in Kenya. After some disruptive antics on the ship to Africa, the gang falls into the ocean and washes ashore in, you guessed it, Madagascar. The rest of the first film focuses on the gang’s assimilation into the wild with fellow creatures like King Julien XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his wild band of lemurs.
The second movie, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, picks up with the gang attempting to fly a makeshift plane with the penguins back to New York City, but it crashes somewhere in continental Africa. Surprise! Animals can’t fly planes. It explores how Alex the Lion found himself in New York City — hint: he was captured and shipped there — but also goes into some local conflicts like Alex having to prove himself to be worthy of his family’s pride, solving a water crisis and other superfluous love affairs which include hippos, zebras and giraffes. This is a DreamWorks film, so the second movie ends with the penguins and chimpanzees leaving for Monte Carlo with many riches and the gang lives happily ever after in Africa, leaving their beloved New York City behind.
Then comes Madagascar 3: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The “threequel” picks up where the sequel left off: stranded in Africa. The film begins with Alex having a panic attack about growing old in Africa, away from New York City, so the series plot comes back and the gang renews their desire to head home, deciding that they should go to Monte Carlo to get the penguins and chimpanzees and make their way back to New York. The plot at the beginning sounds promising enough, but what happens for the next 80 minutes is all a blur. From this point on, besides the core group of characters, not a single animal from the previous movie exists, including Alex’s own parents.
Brace yourself. You’re going to need to trust me with this plot overview, because I’m not making any of this up. After Alex has his I-can’t-live-in-Africa freak out (again), the gang defies all sense of time and magically appears right outside of Monte Carlo with snorkels. After Operation Penguin Extraction, where the gang uses their magically appearing high-tech gadgets to capture the penguins and chimpanzees at a casino in Monte Carlo, the Manhattan animals find themselves being chased by Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand), a horribly French animal-control policewoman who wants to cut off the lion’s head and stick it on her wall. Stay with me.
After an absurd chase scene across the rooftops of Monte Carlo, where Capt. Dubois actually runs through three sets of walls, the gang finds shelter with a European traveling circus. What great timing, because this circus is absolutely awful and they are in desperate need of some talented New York animals. Alex is recruited by this band of horrible performers to revive their act and bring them back the glory that they surely miss.
Like the previous film, Madagascar 3: I Don’t Know Which Way Is Up brings a whole slew of new circus animals that play a central role — and they’re all terribly written stereotypes: A sexy Italian jaguar, a goofy and uncivilized Italian sea lion, a pack of unruly British dogs and a vodka-chugging Russian tiger (Bryan Cranston). Here’s the thing: it took me the entire movie to figure out where these animals came from — except for the Italian sea lion, whose Italian accent is not only offensive but is just plain bad — because not a single new character maintains any realistic accent. For the record, makers of Madagascar 3: Not Familiar With Consistency, please check with an Italian speaker, or hell, even Google Translate, before you look stupid by using fake Italian words. But I digress.
The gang realizes that an American talent scout will be in the audience at one of their upcoming shows, so they try to whip the circus animals into shape to impress the man that could be their ticket home. So we’re back to wanting to go back to New York. We then learn the real reason why the showrunner, Vitaly the Tiger, stopped performing well and caused the fall of the circus in the first place. His act is to jump through hoops; but, after failing to fit through a flaming hoop the size of a wedding ring (despite inexplicably being oiled up with extra virgin olive oil), his fur is too badly burned. That just doesn’t make sense, but, whatever.