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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

October 18th, 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack

The movie business deals with such huge numbers that it is no surprise executives are rather conservative when it comes to making movies. When $100 million is low-budget for a tentpole release, you can't afford to experiment. This is why there are so many franchises out there. Madagascar was extended to a trilogy this summer. But has the original idea been stretched too far? Or is there a lot of life left in these characters?

The Movie

The film starts with Alex suffering through a nightmare. The penguins and the monkeys flew off leaving them stranded in Africa to grow old and feeble. This nightmare is very close to reality, except they haven't had time to grow old, yet. It's Alex's birthday and Marty, Gloria, and Melman have made a model of New York City. Tired of waiting to for the monkeys to return and get them, they decide to go to Monte Carlo and get the penguins and the monkeys.

The trip to Monte Carlo is uneventful. In fact, it happens during the title screen and we don't see a thing.

When they do see them in Monte Carlo, we learn that the penguins and the monkeys didn't abandon them in Africa, they were gambling their way to a massive fortune so they could return in style. Unfortunately, they arrive right in the middle of Skipper's master plan and all of the animals are forced to run. They do escape the casino, but following them is Captain Chantel DuBois, the demented head of Animal Control. Even when they manage to escape by plane, their celebration doesn't last long, as the damage suffered is too much and they crash somewhere in France.

With the cops on their tails again, and no hope of flying home, Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman have no choice but to hide out on a circus train. There they meet three of the circus performers. There's Vitaly the Tiger, Stefano the seal, and Gia the Jaguar. Vitaly is ready to tell the owner and have them thrown off the train; however, Skipper shows up in time to come up with a plan. With the money left over from their casino plan, they will buy the circus. Once they own the circus, they will put on some performances in Europe, before booking a tour in New York City, and before you know it, they'll be home.

It's a brilliant plan, except for one problem. The circus is terrible. They'll never be able to get to New York City, not unless they turn things around first. That's not going to be easy, especially with Captain DuBois still on their tail.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this movie. I think when it came to pitching the movie, someone said, 'How about we set the third film in a circus?' And someone replied, 'How are we going to get the animals from Africa and put them into a circus?' 'No clue!' 'Great! Let's start work on the second act!' Before they get to the circus, there's almost no plot and the film is carried by mostly energy. Once they get to the circus, it is still much more energy than plot, but at least there's something recognizable as a plot. There's not a lot of major character development, although to be fair, the characters have changed a lot since the first film. The bad guy has zero personality. And that scene where she sings a song to inspire her injured men. I had to look up what song she was singing to even have a clue what that was about. How many adults know enough about the French Foreign Legion to get that reference? That scene is going to go over the heads of 90% of the audience and will instead feel more like strangeness for strangeness sake.

On the other hand, the film does have a lot of energy and for the most part the filmmakers do a very good job of utilizing its energy. The early car chase is especially well done. It's a manic 90-minute film that almost never slows down. I can imagine there are quite a few adults that might wish the film wasn't quite so in-your-face and wasn't quite as loud (especially the circus scene, that should come with a seizure warning), but I think these are the exact qualities kids will like about the movie. The film is filled with color and sound. It apparently has more sound effects than any other Dreamworks animated film. The main characters are well-developed enough that they can carry a film, even if we don't learn a whole lot more about them this time around.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with the three co-directors. Big Top Cast is a 14-minute featurette on the voice cast. There are three deleted scenes in various stages of animation. Mad Music Mash-Up is a one-minute featurette for those who liked the song at the end. Ringmasters is a 15-minute making of featurette focusing on the three co-directors. Madagascar Roundtable has the four main cast members talking about the film.

There are three extras exclusive to the Blu-ray, starting with Get Them To the Train, which is a simple game. Animators Corner is a Picture-in-Picture track with interviews, storyboards, animatics, etc. It uses the technology well. Finally, there is a pop-up trivia track.

It's a digitally animated film, so it should come as no surprise that the film looks fantastic. Also, given the bright nature of the circus scenes, it is especially amazing in high definition. It is reference level quality. The audio is just as strong. The 7.1 surround sound track is crystal clear, while there is a cacophony of directional effects, ambient sounds, solid bass, etc. Reference level quality. It is as simple as that. The 3D effects are also great with great depth as well as lots of things flying at the screen. And because the film was rendered natively in 3D, you don't have to worry about poorly done effects or the 3D hurting the visuals in other ways.

The DVD costs $17 while the Blu-ray costs just $3 or less than 20% more, plus is comes with an Afro Circus wig. That's a great deal. The 3D version costs $8 or 40% more than the Blu-ray, which is a tad on the expensive side. Granted, it looks fantastic in 3D, but I can't be enthusiastic about this price.

The Verdict

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is a very fun movie that spends most of its energy creating a high level of, well, energy. There's lots of action, lots of sights, lots of sounds. It should entertain kids immensely. The DVD has enough extras that it is worth picking up, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is the better deal. While the 3D Combo Pack is a little pricey, if you've made the leap to 3D, this film will help show off your home theater system.

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Filed under: Video Review, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Frances McDormand, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Martin Short, Ben Stiller, Tom McGrath