I'm a little behind on blogging summer's explosion of kids' movies, so I'm doubling-up for Ice Age 4: Continental Drift and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. The movies have a lot in common: they are both attempts to extend franchises that maybe have been stretched too thin; they both have sub-narratives that are more interesting than the main ones (Scrat and his acorn; the penguins); and I didn't like either of them. Oh, and I didn't pay for 3D for either one.
Madagascar 3: I have to admit I've very biased against this franchise, which began with a Central Park Zoo's lion leading his three wild animals on a journey that ends off the coast of Africa, where they should feel at home but decidedly do not. The first movie came out right before The Wild, which also had Central Park Zoo lions leading their very similar wild animal friends on a journey that ends in Africa, where they should feel at home but decidedly do not. Apparently no one was imprisoned for this, but it still seems bizarre to me. Anyway, Madagascar had bigger stars and was out first, so it won the "lion out of the zoo" wars.
Critics seem to like Madagascar 3, which seems to benefit from the "MIB3" effect -- it is so much better than the second movie, that it's a relief and gets a boost by comparison. In the second movie, the animals try without success to go home to NY but end up in central Africa, where Alex the lion meets his parents and some other forgettable things sort of happen. In the third movie, the friends again want to get to NY, but this time only manage to crash in Paris after flying from Monte Carlo. How they get to Monte Carlo is obscured; the second movie seemed to suggest they were more in touristy Kenya than northern Africa, but you never know. Anyway, instead of presenting themselves to a zoo in Paris and hoping for the best, they go on the run from a crazy Animal Control officer who wants to mount Alex's head on her wall. The strange Inspector Javert-type antagonist only gets weirder when she starts singing Je Ne Regritte Rien, a la Edith Piaf, complete with runny mascara. (I'm not making this up. I couldn't make this up.) They seek refuge with a traveling animal circus that has a chance of being sent to New York. The circus has seen better days, so our American friends turn the circus into a flashy Cirque du Soleil (without saying those words -- Alex says something like "an all-human circus from Canada"). But the lack of logical plot and intertwining of obscure adult references does not hold back the movie from what will make it millions -- a punchy song with "afro circus" as a refrain, complete with wearing circus clown afro wigs. This is what made my children want to go see it, and they got their afro circus wig's money worth.
Ice Age 4: I'm still unsure how I ended up seeing this. I had 8 rising freshman girls sleeping over, and they were torn between seeing this and seeing Moonrise Kingdom. I'm still shaking my head. Why did they want to see Ice Age 4? Unclear, but some mention was made that Nicki Minaj, Heather Morris(from Glee), and Keke Palmer (from Akeelah and the Bee) were stars. But the first two are not in it much, and rather annoying characters. Palmer plays Peaches, the teenage mammoth, but her character was whiny and annoyed me, too.
So, the premise of the movie is that Peaches is growing up too fast for her father, Manny, and when she breaks his rules she screams that she wishes he would go away. At that moment, the continent splits and Manny and his pals Diego and Sid are cast out to sea on an ice floe, with Manny vowing to come back to his family. The rest of the movie are their attempts to get back home. There are even Sirens attempting to make them crash into the rocks, but this is not an epic poem. It's a little poem, with not much new. And of course, at the end, the father sees that he was too strict, and loosens the rules for his daughter. The daughter doesn't learn a lot except that she would hate to lose her father right after she yells at him and that if she talks about her uncool best friend behind his back, she should make sure he doesn't hear. She does befriend him again, but only after his heroics gain him the respect of the "cool" kids anyway. So, pretty costless to her. But, all 10 kids in my crew were perfectly happy with it, from age 4-14.
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