You’ve heard the expression “life imitates art”. Well, it’s doing that for me right now. As I sat in a movie theater, one of the lucky ones who got to see the advanced screening of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, I was very aware of how the plot was mimicking my own life.
Sitting beside me were two of my four children. One has just graduated from college and the other from high school. Both are virtually popping with anticipation over the exciting lives they are about to embark on. They both have very definite plans about what is going to happen to them, where they are going and how they will get there. At first glance, that seems like a good thing. But anyone who has lived a while longer than they, knows that life is what happens while you’re busy making plans. It’s also the lesson the main characters in the Madagascar movies learn – it just takes them three movies to get there.
In the first Madagascar movie, the lure of adventure drew Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe away from their safe, predictable lives in the zoo in New York City. They get more than they bargained for and spend the rest of the first movie and all of the second, and most of the third trying to get back to what they were eager to leave in the first place.
It’s a big world out there, as the animals find out. My kids are still in the stage of wanting to see what’s beyond the confines of their cages, er, family home. Will they find that the world offers endless and wonderful opportunities? Or will they, like the characters in Madagascar, find out that freedom isn’t always all that it’s cracked up to be.
In Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, the characters find themselves seemingly ditched in Madagascar by the penguins and their monkey stooges, who have flown off to Monte Carlo to make it rich in the casino. The four characters follow and, as in all whacky movies, car chases, disguises, slipping on banana peels, love stories and bad guys with hearts of gold ensue. In the end, well, let’s just say that the moral is: be careful what you wish for because you might get it – and not want it after all.
Ritzy Monte Carlo scenery and new characters including Martin Short as Stefano, the hapless Italian sea lion, add great new elements to the movie. Frances McDormand was the deliciously confident and devious Captain Chantel DuBois, animal control agent out to snatch herself a lion head to mount on her wall – her latest conquest (and a little morbid for the kiddos, I gotta say!). Her torch song, a la Edith Piaf meets Marlene Dietrich, complete with mascara-tear-stained cheeks was the highlight for me, which will completely go over kids’ heads.
My children found it annoying that the trip from Madagascar to Monte Carlo happened in an instant, with nary a moment’s explanation of how they got there – not one inkling of a very long swim or hitchhiking on a boat or something. Ace reviewers-in-training that they are, they also felt a few scenes could have been cut without hurting the plot at all. I agree.
They did love the circus scenario which comes rather late in the story yet is such a pleasurable and creative part of the movie. They even loved the totally implausible circus scenes including sets spiraling up into the sky and floating circuses hovering over Manhattan. But then again, this is a story about animals who talk and build huts and go on car chases so what’s so odd about a flying circus?
In the end, our four buddies find out what I hope my children learn – have dreams and goals but be flexible about them. A dream you didn’t anticipate might turn out to be your much better reality.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (http://www.madagascarmovie.com/) opens June 8 and is rated PG.
EXTRA, EXTRA: Check out this interview with Chris Rock and Ben Stiller on the Colorado Parent magazine website.
– Colorado Mom, Courtney