There's a wonderful phrase that I unfortunately live my life by - better late than never. With that in mind, here is my review of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted that came out more than a month ago. Be warned, I rant a little.
The first Madagascar film in 2005 had a really unique approach and spawned some very memorable characters, two sequels and a TV show. In my opinion, the latter installments of the franchise have gone significantly downhill. The first film had laughs, adventure, and heart that was a by-product of the plot at work. The second film started to fall in love with itself a little bit and, to me, the third installment felt as lost as the main characters were.
I admit that I'm completely opposed to the Rotten Tomatoes ratings here - Madagascar landed at 55%, the sequel Escape 2 Africa ended at 64% and the third installment Europe's Most Wanted clocked in at a very surprising 75%. I would probably invert those scores with the first film being the highest and descending from there.
The film isn't terrible, but it is far less courageous than Brave. I'm a big believer in providing content for children that is appropriate and offers some education opportunities. I'm not saying that every movie or show has to be a National Geographic special, but a little heartfelt lesson here and there certainly never hurt Disney, and they make a lot of money. Furthermore, the editing style of Madagascar 3 very much 'caters to the casuals' by being very quick cuts that can be digested in small doses. Again, I'm all for making films approachable, but not to the point that they are dumbed down. If adults can't expect kids to be able to be engaged for an hour and a half what is the motivation for a child to try to gain something from the story? If I was a professor at a film school, I would say, "if you set out to make a film, make a film, don't make a crazy long music video."
Furthermore, Madagascar 3 spent a lot of time catering to a very violent comedy style. Many modern children's cartoons involve a good deal of physical comedy, and while it can be funny in small doses, I simply can't recommend a film that had far more face slapping than most R-rated comedies. What message are we sending to our kids when everyone from the villain to the heroes slap each other at the slightest provocation? I don't oppose films, even kid's films, that have violence in them, as long as the violence is to a greater purpose, and not just for laughs.
To the film's credit, the visuals are stunning and it is rather pretty. The voice acting is top notch and the star studded cast do make the ridiculous characters enjoyable to listen to. It's probably an ok film, but I was severely hampered by being a child who grew up watching Aladdin and The Lion King. The popular films of my generation spoke to us and helped teach us to be good people, they didn't strive for cheap laughs.
Did anyone see Madagascar 3? Anyone think I'm dead wrong?