REVIEW: Penguins of Madagascar [2014]

“Venetian blinded again” Is Penguins of Madagascar a total cash grab? Not quite. It’s one thing when a studio hones in on a successful franchise’s periphery character and deems it worthy of a spin-off by pretending it possessed enough depth to carry a feature of its own, but it’s another when the filmmakers embrace its appeal and simply expanded upon that element. Puss in Boots was painted as a hero to begin with and supplying him an origin wasn’t a giant leap past Shrek. The “cute and cuddly” penguins from…

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REVIEW: Mr. Peabody & Sherman [2014]

“But that’s not fair! All my friends are fighting the Trojan War!” It’s been a decade in the making but director Rob Minkoff has finally brought Mr. Peabody and Sherman to theaters. He tried with Sony in 2003, got the ball rolling again with Dreamworks in 2006, and saw the latter studio’s purchase of the Classic Media library in 2012 as the clincher to guarantee it’d come to fruition. With characters known from segments of the 60s television series “The Bullwinkle Show”, they’re virtually a brand new property for today’s…

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REVIEW: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted [2012]

“I’m like a candy cane in a black and white movie” A round of applause for directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath—and Conrad Vernon who joins them to expand on his responsibilities playing Mason the monkey—because they have kind of accomplished the impossible with Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. I was surprised at how much better Escape 2 Africa was in comparison to the original Madagascar, but never expected my level of enjoyment to rise even more with the third. Darnell—also a co-writer with Noah Baumbach—and McGrath have grown alongside…

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REVIEW: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa [2008]

“I find it pretty and slightly hypnotic” It’s amazing what happens when filmmakers craft a plot for their characters. I’m not saying I approve of sequels with lame flashback origin prologues trying to make up for the lack of story in their predecessors, but I won’t complain if such contrivances help ground the jokes into a cohesive three act structure. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa isn’t hampered by the need to remove its leads from their fabricated habitat, instead starting off the reservation and relying on everyone’s intrinsic desire to return…

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REVIEW: Madagascar [2005]

“Just smile and wave boys. Smile and wave.” Made as though in opposition to Pixar’s brand of magical storytelling, Dreamworks Animation’s Madagascar ushered in the studio’s want for broader comedy and adolescent appeal. With Shrek, they found a franchise that subverted Disney’s use of fairy tales for cinematic fodder and created a nice hybrid of laughs and story with an underdog hero inside an ugly duckling tale. But after a steady stream of Pixar work including Monsters Inc. and the previous year’s The Incredibles, you have to believe that Dreamworks…

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