This article contains spoilers.
MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE'S MOST WANTED
DIRECTED BY: ERIC DARNELL, TOM MCGRATH, CONRAD VERNON
WRITTEN BY: ERIC DARNELL, NOAH BAUMBACH
STARRING: BEN STILLER, CHRIS ROCK, JADA PINKETT SMITH
The Madagascar films never reached the level of any of the animation masterpieces Pixar has put out (Toy Story 1, 2, 3, Finding Nemo) and hasn’t even matched the better works of DreamWorks (How To Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2). But they were always fun--for kids.
I was eight when the first film about a group of zoo animals that get stranded on an exotic island came out and I remember liking it quite a lot. Like most people, the catchy anthem of the entire franchise, 'I Like To Move It, Move It,' was stuck in my head for weeks. Heck, I’m humming it as I type this right now.
So, while the movie was perfect fun for kids, was anybody really asking for a third entry, this time in 3D? I didn’t think so.
The sloppily titled Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted once again joins us with Alex, Marty, Melvin, and Gloria as they race their way through Europe trying to get home to their zoo in New York by joining a traveling circus.
Madagascar 3 features a wide-ranging and utterly random group of actors and actresses as the talking animals in the film, including, reprising their roles from the first two films, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Sacha Baron Cohen. These characters are still perfectly lovable a third time around, but you can’t help but feel their character arcs are long complete, and the personalities are starting to feel a bit tired. There’s no more that these characters can grow or make advances in their lives, so they’re stuck with the lackluster story and gags to move them throughout the plot.
What I’m saying is that they are not particularly engaging anymore.
The new palette of supporting characters is unbelievably odd, with a tiger, some other female cat, and a sea lion joining our heroes. Voicing them is Bryan Cranston, Martin Short, and Jessica Chastain. The problem with these characters is simply that they don’t particularly matter. They aren’t memorable enough to be completely lovable or engaging, and they fit archetypes we’ve seen in other animated characters plenty of times before.
All in all, there’s a talented voice cast at play in the third entry of the franchise, but as the characters themselves become 3D for the first time, they start to feel a bit one dimensional.
The story in this film is simple: Animals want to get home. Animals join circus to get home. And yet, you can’t help but realize that in this forced three-quel, that something so simple has been turned into something so chaotic. There are inconsistencies everywhere in this script, ranging from the fact that at the end of the second one, everyone was happy in Africa. Why then, all of the sudden, almost without any explanation, do they want to go home?
I guess it doesn’t matter to the five-year-old viewer who will be attracted to the talking zebra and pretty color schemes, but still, DreamWorks has proved that they have done work before that has appealed to all ages, so this mess has no excuse. Directed by three people and written by two, this film can’t help but feel chaotic and messy from its loud opening scene through the rest of its running time. There’s a ridiculous, annoying, and utterly bizarre villain, and little of the film makes any sense.
FINAL GRADE: C
FINAL SAY: Loud and chaotic, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is an unnecessary and messy entry in a franchise that should probably just end.
MOVIE KID REVIEW SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
DIRECTED BY: RUPERT SANDERS
WRITTEN BY: EVAN DAUGHERTY, JOHN LEE HANCOCK, HOSSEIN AMINI
STARRING: KRISTEN STEWART, CHRIS HEMSWORTH, CHARLIZE THERON
When it was announced that two films based off the classic fairy tale Snow White would come out within a matter of months, the internet went into a craze.
Which one would be better?
One had Charlize Theron. But the other had Julia Roberts. One had a rookie director. But the other was from the director of Immortals. Then we started getting our trailers and we witnessed what was the Julia Roberts-vehicle, Mirror Mirror.
Then there was the darker, meaner looking Snow White film. This is that film. And how is it? Well, it's definitely not the "high-ho, high-ho, off to work we go" Snow White you know.
Following Snow White's adventures after escaping the grasps of an evil queen, Snow White And The Huntsman teams our innocent princess with a drunken and fierce Hunstman in order to survive and defeat the queen.
When it was first announced that Twilightnstar Kristen Stewart would be starring as Snow White, I rolled my eyes and put my head in my hands in shame. This film was already headed in the wrong direction. My main problem with Kristen Stewart is everybody's main problem with her: she shows no emotion. She's like a wooden plank that walks, barely talks, and looks constantly in a state of confusion. And while in this movie she has slightly more to do than in the Twilight films, she's still not a great actress.
She's just perfectly acceptable here.
Joining her is Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman. Sure, he's as tough as ever, but this role isn't showing us that Hemsworth is an actor with much range. I like the guy, but here he's just Thor with an axe.
Finally, you have Charlize Theron rounding out the cast as the evil queen. And boy, is she evil. She's not just evil, she's absolutely bonkers in this movie. The problem is we see a lot of her in the beginning (too much, perhaps) and in the second half, when she should be more menacing, she's barely in it at all.
Taking her place for much of the film is her brother, played by Sam Spruell with the worst haircut you've ever seen. I mean, seriously, his hair made me laugh in some serious scenes.
The story of the film is jarringly dark. I mean, from the trailers, yes, you could expect it to be dark. But not this dark. Tonally, this is probably one of the most grim films I've seen in a while. And while that does allow for some stylistic flare when our heroine reaches the dark forest, it also makes the film mostly devoid of light-heartedness and joy. It's not really a "fun" film so to speak.
For long periods of time, the colors we see are only grey and black and it really is a test for the eyes for how long you can stay grasped by something so bland.
The first half is full of bad incident after bad incident, with nothing fun or entertaining bookending it. It's murder after murder after murder until we get the dwarves. Yes, I'm going to say it, the dwarves (portrayed by notable actors including Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, and Toby Jones) turn this film around. Something that was bland and dark before suddenly has some weight to it, as a "prophecy" for our heroes start to kick in and the action goes into full gear.
All in all, the film is a visual feast, despite its limiting color palette. There's an awesome design for the Magic Mirror and the final battle is actually, surprisingly, quite engaging and quite good. However, the best parts of the film come after its drab of a first half, and I can't judge a film in halves. I judge it as a sum of its parts.
So when I weigh the scale of the good and bad, I find, surprisingly, that I enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman more than I disliked it. It's flawed, yes, but it's also popcorn entertainment at its most grim, dark, and gothic. So you've got to give it credit for not holding back. And for somehow getting a PG-13.
FINAL GRADE: B-
FINAL SAY: While it isn't without its flaws, Snow White and the Huntsman serves as a perfectly acceptable summer blockbuster, with a rousing final battle and a dark tone that mostly works.