Luckily, in recent years, some of these movies have been animated films. The likes of Toy Story 3, Kung Fu Panda 2, and , well, Toy Story 1 and 2 can measure up to any live acted movie out there.
And then there are movies that just want to see giraffes circling and elephants gliding intertwined in ribbons like a Cirque du Soleil act.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is the latter. All hyperbole and visual gags, the movie is a frenetic laugh a minute with no real heart.
We catch up with Leo the Lion (voice of Ben Stiller) as he and his gang are finding life in vast, empty Africa not as stimulating as the Big Apple. Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Scwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) miss the zoo.
Naturally, they chase the penguins to a casino in Monte Carlo, where the feathered fabulosos have teamed with the monkey horde to game the system.
What do you know? Luckily, a visiting circus troop is headed for America and all the former zoo inhabitants have to do is join up. Then it’s home, sweet zoo.
For that, they need an act. But a crazed French animal control officer is doggedly on their trail.
Literally. Doggedly. She’s like a dog-person hybrid.
There’s some attempt at heart with a tiger (Bryan Cranston) who is, oddly, Russian. I thought tigers came from Asia. Anyway, he has lost his nerve for his act.
Plus, Leo finds the most beautiful cat he’s ever seen. She’s Gia (Jessica Chastain) and she’s a cheetah. Or maybe a leopard. Perhaps a puma.
She’s got the sizzle.
These story lines are not the point. The point is to see elephants soar, hippos walk the tightrope, and giraffes snorkel with their long, long necks. The point is snappy dialog full of one-liners that won’t have mom and dad rolling their eyes or covering their kids’ ears.
The point is a day-glo circus act set to Katy Perry’s “Firework” with dogs on rocket-fueled roller skates.
It’s a lot of fun, frankly. And then there’s the “Circus Afro” bit to boot.
It’s everything a mediocre cartoon should be: entertaining and funny and not at all serious.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.
Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.