Without Pixar, how crappy would modern day animated films be considered years from now by film academics? Seemingly every animated feature that hits the emotional core of your average adult sitting in the audience begins with the Pixar logo in the opening credits. There are a dozen or more theories on why this is; my personal favorite is the fact that Pixar doesn’t feel the need to destroy a successful property by rushing horrible sequels into the marketplace.
For more than a decade now, Dreamworks has taken a massive dump on consumers’ heads. Since the somewhat surprising mega-success that was 2001’s Shrek, Dreamworks has filled their coffers with the box office receipts from their animated fare. “Oh, you liked Shrek? Well you will surely love the next three redundant chapters in the saga, as well as the Puss in Boots spinoff.” Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Despicable Me; art shmart, there are Oreos that need to be sold!
That brings us to perhaps the biggest serial offender of this method of filmmaking, Madagascar 3. That’s right; finally all of the unanswered questions that remain from the first two films will be answered!
The film picks up with the main group of furry friends still awaiting their opportunity to make it back home to New York City. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), after weeks of awaiting the penguins return with transportation, finally decide to take matters into their own hands. Traveling to Monte Carlo to confront the flightless birds on their shadiness, they cause a commotion in a casino, attracting the attention of animal control specialist Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand). They manage to escape capture by hiding out with a traveling circus badly in need of new acts.
It occurred to me while watching this unfortunate film that not a whole lot has changed in kids’ entertainment since I was a child (the 30s, if you must know). At a certain point when watching Kung Fu Panda 2, I thought to myself, “Ah, so this is the Land Before Time for this generation, sure to devolve into a dozen direct-to-DVD chapters at any second.” Madagascar 3 is a Kidz Bop CD put to film. Aw, you’re a little chubby kid that is also a tad clumsy? Why, you’re just like sassy Gloria! Play your cards right and you’ll have a skinny, neurotic boyfriend like Melman one day, too. A habitual liar due to feelings of inadequacy? Take a look at Alex. Perhaps you are the only black kid in your school or neighborhood, surrounded by milquetoast whites? Two words for you: Afro Circus.
Why are kids given this crap 90% of the time, with the occasional Up thrown their way once a year, like a bone to a starving dog? Madagascar 3 doesn’t just talk down to them; it digs a pit for the kids to stand in so the producers don’t even have to acknowledge their presence. Do you know what song is played, not once, but twice during this freaking thing? Katy Perry’s “Firework”. Now, I admit I was unusually cynical for a child, but I would have burnt the theater down if someone had tried to feed me that kind of schmaltzy BS as a kid. Honestly, you should use this movie as a litmus test on your kid; if you can tell that they are buying into the feel-goodness of this thing, spend the rest of the afternoon teaching them how to push a broom, it will come in handy as a career option later in life.
I’ve said this a dozen times or more before, but Hollywood will not give us better options until we start voting with our dollars. I realize a lot of you have kids, and movies are an easy way to get a couple of hours of quiet out of them. All I am saying is that there are better options out there; buy a copy of The Iron Giant, take them to a bookstore, take them to the park so you both can get some sun and exercise. Just please, let’s band together and tell Dreamworks that we are all tired of their bullshit.
Oh yeah…not recommended.