This has been a hard movie to approach a second time. I’m proud of the way that I’ve been able to get more information and more topics out of repeated viewings of films this year. I got two weeks out of Think Like a Man for Christ’s sake. I wrote up The Hunger Games four times. I thought I was getting good at this. There might be no further depth to Madagascar 3.
This is mostly because there’s no real story here. There’s a lot of events but most of them are chases or circus acts. There’s very little holding it together and it’s hard to tell what any of these characters want. At the end I guess the characters have the stunning realization that they’d really rather not be locked up in cages in a zoo as they desired for the previous 80 minutes but that’s more an indictment of the premise than any sort of legitimate character arc. That only even applies to Alex, the lion, and the zebra who’s name I never bothered to learn. The hippo and the giraffe really have nothing going in this movie at all except the giraffe doesn’t like dancing and the hippo decides the best way to teach him is on a tightrope. That’s way more event than story too.
One bright spot was pointed out to me by Robert Chan. Chan and I are working on adapting this blog into a podcast (that was the announcement I teased two weeks ago but was never able to actually announce because we hit a hitch. Check back in July) and he pointed out that when he watched the movie what really struck him was the relationship between Sacha Baron Cohen’s lemur and the speechless bear he falls in love with is really the strongest material in the movie. Going through it the second time I completely agree. It works, it’s tender, it happens because of genuine relatable emotion. It’s the only thing that even comes close to working in the movie the second time.
I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly mention the 3D. I watched it in 2d the first time and thought it all looked just fine but it really pops in 3D. The circus scenes are helped tremendously and the action beats always have stuff flying at the screen. Really great work but hindered a little by the fact that they are always stretching that giraffe’s head toward the screen and it’s super annoying.
I hate to go this far but I think the only reason this has had a two week run is because they put it out two weeks before Pixar released Brave. Madagascar 3 seems to be a movie for lazy parents who are struggling to deal with their newly-released children coming into summer vacation. This is more of a frenetic colorful babysitter than an attempt to make a real movie and it’s sad that that’s a winning strategy in American cinema right now.