I had just finished sixth grade when the first “Madagascar” film came out, and I must say, I enjoyed it probably as much as the six-year-olds in the theater. Then I was in tenth grade when “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” hit theaters, and I disdained it like a ten-year-old who thinks he’s too cool for school and animated kids entertainment. Now, I’m heading into my sophomore year of college while “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” is taking over screens in three dimensions. Regardless of your age watching this movie, if you can just accept the inherent childishness of the series, you can enjoy it.
DreamWorks Animation found a way to reclaim what they do best (and thus separates them from their main competitor, Pixar): providing a family movie experience that creates a bottom line of ridiculous, zany antics for the kids while also littering the film with very sophisticated wordplay and adult humor that flies right over the little ones’ heads. Pixar tries to level the playing field and get child, parent, and grandparent to view the movie from the same viewpoint; that’s what makes “Up” one of my all-time favorites.
But only DreamWorks provides maturely humorous animation that you can watch the tykes around, and it’s pretty ingenious how they can create two totally different intellectual experiences. I know you probably don’t expect to hear intellectual tossed around in many reviews of the “Madagascar” series, but it’s a smart way to make money and maybe turn that ticket stub into a DVD purchase.
If you can’t handle Chris Rock’s ludicrous “Circus Afro” song or any of the New York Zoo crew’s antics, then maybe your appetite for humor will be met by their numerous pot shots at Europeans. Kids aren’t going to get all the jokes about European labor laws and culture, but if you’ve tuned into CNN in the past year, you might get a kick out of it. (Seeing this just two days after coming back from Europe sure made me chuckle – these movies may ask you to suspend reality, but they sure nailed Europe.) I’m not saying that any sort of comedic brilliance exists in the DNA of “Madagascar 3;” however, I will say I think you’ll be hard-pressed to sit through the movie without having a few good laughs. B /