Do you remember that time as a kid when you wanted to run away and join the circus? When you realised that the people around you are a genetic accident and not the ones you actually belong with, hence the possibility of an escape into a magical world was as serious as breaking the no-candy-before-dinner rule.
You jump on a train and every day will then bring the possibility of accomplishing heroic feats without anyone telling you that being a human cannonball does not mean skull fracture, paralysis and eventual death but simply a way of flying without wings. Where the real world, stripped off of the power of dreaming, is kept at bay at the ticket booth every night and looking at the world upside down is an act that people will applaud you for. Where you can have candy for dinner.
Then you grew up and realised two things: the circus you thought you would join only exists in Hollywood films and that you have grown up and if you try and fly out of a cannon, you are either on pills or will be given some.
Here’s the good news, though. Madagascar 3 is a reminder that you can still run away to join a circus of your own choice and construct and that there is no such thing as the real world.
Film sequels usually grow old and tired by the time they reach their third instalment. Madagascar 3, however, went the other way round. It is so fresh and enthralling that it feels like a new film altogether that can’t be compared to its first two instalments. It holds its own both by taking the best bits from its predecessors and by adding an unexpectedly strong narrative structure.
You meet Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman again, still looking for a way to get back home to the New York Zoo. They end up in Monte Carlo with the best of Madagascar character entourage: King Julian, his sidekicks and the penguins who devise an obviously useless plan to get Alex and his friends back. In the process, they manage to get the manic Captain Chantel DuBois on their trail who is determined to have Alex’s head as a trophy on her wall. The rest is an exhilarating ride as they jump on a circus train, salvage a dying act and finally find an unexpected place to call home.
DreamWorks animation manages to do a seamless juggling act with all the characters thrown in along with the regulars. The circus troupe introduced is almost unbelievably adorable. Vitaly the Tiger as a faded hero, Gia the Jaguar as Alex’s love interest and Sonya the semi-myopic Bear as King Julian’s ‘emotional whoopee cushion’ compliment an already-endearing cast. The real circus star, however, is Stefan the Sea Lion who shines with his ‘nearly average intelligence’. The film as a whole puts up a spectacular show with a get-up-and-dance musical score and an almost side-splittingly funny script. Add to this an animation that uses a canvas of colour that literally lights up the screen and you are going to walk out of the film looking for that circus train that you were meant to hop on to when you were six.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, June 24th, 2012.
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