MOVIE REVIEW: Frankenweenie and Madagascar 3

With Half Term and Halloween just around the corner, both Dreamworks and Disney have released great animated features to keep the young and young at heart entertained… our movie buff Stevie Daly reviews

 

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted does almost exactly what it says on the tin; it’s the latest instalment in the annoyingly brash franchise about the all-singing all-dancing adventures of a Lion, a Zebra, a Hippo and a Giraffe (plus a posse of ADHD Lemurs and psychotic Penguins).

I say almost because alongside the usual whizz-bang histrionics and habit of turning every other scene into a music video for the latest migraine-inducing dance-pop hit, this is a more-or-less enjoyable 86 minutes of enough inventive moments and twisted humour to keep those of a more jaded persuasion suitably amused. And all in impressively eye-popping 3D.

Following the plot isn’t really necessary, you may as well just sit back and enjoy the ride as Alex, Marty and Co. join the circus through Europe on their never-ending quest to Go Home. This time they are pursued by the fantastically villainous Capt. DuBois (Frances McDormand), leader of Monte Carlo Animal Control and determined to get Alex’s head on her trophy wall.  This of course leads to all manner of Gallic piss-taking, from the tired (Freedom Fries) to a genuinely brilliant gag about the supernatural abilities of Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien. Throw in the best star-cross’d lovers since Wall-E and EVE (Lemur king Julien and a bear in a tutu riding a unicycle) and you can almost forgive the use of Katy Perry’s “Firework”. Almost. 

 

At the other end of the storytelling spectrum is Frankenweenie, Tim Burton’s long awaited and much anticipated feature length version of his own 1984 short film. A loving and exquisitely crafted homage to the heyday of classic Universal Pictures horror, it tells the reassuringly dark tale of young Victor Frankenstein and his loyal canine companion Sparky, brought back to life following an unfortunate accident with a baseball and a car.

 Its not long before the other students – including the amazingly creepy Weird Girl (seemingly stepping straight out of Oyster Boy) and her feline friend Mr Whiskers – are following suit, and the town of New Holland is besieged by reanimated and mutated Vampire Cats, Gamera Turtles and Evil (sea)Monkeys. 

The style and animation are beautiful, with Burton’s trademark wonky stop-motion characters rendered in striking black and white. The director’s ‘old-school’ acting regulars are back in spades, with the likes of Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder (“I welcome Death”) and Martin Landau all providing voices, and there are enough gruesomely grim touches to appeal to fans of his best work. 

But as with his other recent collaborations with Disney (particularly the missed opportunity of Alice In Wonderland), there’s a feeling that Burton’s crazed inventiveness has been somewhat reigned in and subdued to appeal to the widest possible audience – imagine Edward Scissorhands with a happy ending. Having said that, the line “Mr Whiskers had a dream about you last night” is delivered with such spaced-out creepiness it’s worth the price of admission alone.

 

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