Saturday, July 14, 2012

Animal magic, fun fable

(From the July 1-15 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
Misfit animals take center stage anew in Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, easily the most enjoyable installment of the successful series of animated movies.

While the first two parts established (and re-established) the lovable bipedal characters as unique or misunderstood creatures adapting to new environments, this third movie starts with Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) feeling homesick in Africa and stating the animals’ desire to return to their old zoo habitat in New York.

Alex and the other three animals--Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer)—enlist the aid of their old allies, the penguins, lemurs, and monkeys. But the trip to New York isn’t as smooth as they envisioned, and the oft-displaced beasts now find themselves fleeing from an obsessed huntress, Captain Chantale DuBois (Frances McDormand).

Their globe-trotting adventure brings them to various famous locales; to escape their pursuer and her loyal agents, the group of animals persuade their way into a traveling circus.

More animals are introduced, resulting in new situations and dynamics, but attention to the main characters doesn’t diminish. Madagascar 3’s new characters include Vitaly the Tiger (voiced by Bryan Cranston, who’s virtually in every other movie lately), Gia the Jaguar (Jessica Chastain), and Stefano the Sea Lion (Martin Short).

It’s especially delightful when different new ideas work, such as the main group’s handling and revamping of the circus. Their action-packed encounters with the Terminator-like villainess DuBois are likewise entertaining, providing them a much-needed and unforgettable antagonist.

 Animation-wise, the impeccably rendered characters still move fluidly and figure in more detailed settings than in previous adventures. There’s also the addition of the neon palette used in some circus scenes.
The movie gets extra-vibrant when the circus troupe performs thrilling Cirque du Soleil-ish maneuvers to Katy Perry’s overplayed self-esteem song Firework! Old and new beasties get to shine in that and other kinetic sequences, as well.

And if you only barely remember the first two Madagascars, it really doesn’t matter; this third offering is the one that really makes the viewer care for many of the characters. Nicely paced, colorful, and fun, Madagascar finally gets its act together. 

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