REVIEW: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) Dir. Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon

I hate to sound like John K, but what exactly are each of these characters feeling?  

I’ve reposted here what I wrote at Cartoon Brew, but here’s what I thought in a nutshell.  At the end there’s an additional paragraph I didn’t post on CB, where I made a few additional comments:

I saw Madagascar 3, not being a fan of the first Madagascar film, but I thought I’d see this one and try to give the series another shot.  After watching it, I think the reason I find myself not relating to these films is that I feel that humor is not grounded in any sort of logic or rules.  All four main characters act with the same manic energy, and after watching them for 80 minutes I still feel like I don’t really know anything about them.

I know that we’re talking about a cartoon and that this is the world of Madagascar, but we all know that even the wildest, most manic Tex Avery cartoons, he sets up ground rules in each of his cartoons.  Here in this film, a lot of the gags feel arbitrary and don’t do enough to tell us anything or promote character development.  I didn’t understand the villain at all.  Why was she so driven to break her jurisdiction to capture these animals?  The fact that she’s psycho and has animal heads on the wall of her office doesn’t tell me enough.  Is she an animal control officer or a poacher?  And if her job means putting heads of animals on the wall of her office, who on earth thought it was a good idea to put her in charge in the first place?  Why isn’t animal cruelty after her?  The whole film she chases after the animals without any motivation or reason.

I’d also like to know, what was the deal with the circus?  If they’re a traveling circus with no money, why does their next show look like Cirque du Soleil on ecstasy?  It’s like the film kept breaking its own rules without any valid reason.
The only character I kinda liked and felt I could identify with was the seal, Stephano.  In his first scenes when Vitaly was throwing knives at him to shut him up, I liked that for as little as he was, he wasn’t going to let someone as big as Vitaly intimidate him.  It was kind of an endearing quality to give him.  I also liked that they were willing to poke a little fun at the big animation cliche of the main character losing his friends in the big drama scene.  But the circus animals reasons for getting upset were just stupid.  Alex’s group just saved their careers.  Who cares if they lied about being circus animals?  And they had a good reason for lying, considering they were being hunted, and they wouldn’t take them in unless they said they were circus animals.  Whose fault is that?

I kinda wonder what went on in the story meetings for this film.  It seems like they dived in with several million ideas at once, without any singular voice to keep the whole thing grounded and give the film some sort of direction.  Most critics describe the film as being schizophrenic, and in many ways they’re not far off.  I just want to see an all out animated comedy done right for a change.  In the very best classic comedies, the gags are always driven by character.  Just look at anything by Keaton, Chaplin, Charlie Chase, Laurel and Hardy, or even modern day examples like Ren and Stimpy.  And because they’re driven by character, these comedies actually have something to say about them, and something to say about real life.  I don’t relate to the characters in Madagascar because I don’t know anyone like them in real life.  At least, not anyone who didn’t have something motivating their manic behavior.

Overall, I thought it was better than the first Madagascar, but that’s not really saying much.  Implausible scenarios should make sense in their own way.  Otherwise it’s too much mania without the sincerity.

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