Hopes were not high.
It is the october holidays, and a trip to the cinema with a nearly 3 year old and a 7 year old was due. I checked what was on, ‘Frankenweenie’ and ‘Hotel Transelvania’, were too scary, ‘Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, Dog Days’ to not going to engage the wee one enough. The cheap ‘kids am’ film was ice age 4, which is rubbish. complete nonsense. Fortunately I knew that. Unfortunately I had to sit through the unedifying shambles to find that out, so reluctantly it was ‘Madagascar 3 – Europes Most Wanted’ that we opted for.
Since I have lived at home with the children my sense of childrens films has become slightly more accute. Quite often the films I get to see, are films aimed at children, and daytime films for housewives. (The channel 5 daytime movie is of variable quality, but there are some good ones.) As a result of watching a lot of these films, I have become quite critical of them. The ‘Toy Story’ trilogy is marvellous, ‘Monsters Inc’ wonderful, ‘Cars’ why?. Disney main films tend to be okay, but the spin off ones, well I have enever seen a good one. Studio Ghibli usually very lovely. Ponyo is a favourite of both of the children, even if the over arching ecological story seems disjointed as a narrative arc.
The Madagascar series had never been a family favourite for good reason. The first one is barely passable, Sasha Baron Cohen as King Julien is possably the best thing in the movie. Chris Rock does well, but Ben Stiller and Ross from Friends are forgetable. Interestingly the Penguins got their own spin off cartoon series, which is better than the first film.
Madagascar 2 was, fine. nothing really to comment upon.
I couldn’t find a review of Madagascar 3 anywhere. and I knew about the annoying, afro circus song which boded ominously.
It didn’t look good.
The lights went down. the film started,
It was good. I laughed several times, certainly more than I had at the other two. I found myself actually engaging with the film, and it was good. I was finding my low expectations changed as what emerged was a good film. The key was a lightness of touch. The film seemed actually more concerned with a story, instead of the story being a way to crow bar together two jokes or a set peice action sequence. The film had a lightness which seemed to free it, to allow it to show off. The charactors seemed more rounded. The new charactors were good, special mention for Captain DuBois, whose singin is sensational! It also allowed it to create a quality sub story for King Julien.
This sub story revolves around the love shared between King Julien and Sonya, A circus bear who rides a tricycle. The emotional weight of Sonya is stunning, and casts Julien in a new light. It’s a situation where you do care about what happen at the end of it. The best 3 minutes of the film watching them in rome.
For saying all that. its not perfect and there are bits whcich could be imporved upon. the small fighting dogs? why?
But it was a solid 3.5 to 4 star film. It is the best film in the trilogy, and this is what makes it noteworthy. The law when it come to childrens film series is – 1 good, 2 not as good, 3 awful, and four is never made (thankfully, although see ‘shrek’ for reasons why). It took Pixar 10 years to get Toy Story 3 and make it great. For Madagascar to have survived 2 average to forgetable films, be on film 3 and now making above average films is remarkable. I even forgot about the fact that a childs cinema ticket is about £1 less than the price of an adult ticket. (really know how to get an audience used to paying high prices early!)
Anyway you may choose to believe i am off the scale on this, if so click the link to see the film reveiewd by the Guardian on its film club this week http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/video/2012/oct/19/madagascar-3-europes-most-wanted-video-review