It would be disappointing to think that the message of the Emirates advertisement that precedes this feature might be absorbed by the impressionable young minds that come along to see this frankly boring cartoon.
Broadly speaking, the tone of the new animations – dominated by Pixar and Disney – is upbeat, positive and, most important of all, inclusive.
The attempt to dismiss stereotypes and counter racial profiling (see Big Hero 6) is commendable in every way, so it came as something of a surprise here to encounter the tired old association of badness with one specific group – in this case the octopodes (incorrectly referred to as ‘octopi’ – ouch).
To a lesser degree, it also occurs with the leopard seals in the opening, pre-credits scene.
The very first Madagascar, way back in 2005, was fab, but the series has gone steadily downhill ever since the animals made their epic escape from the New York zoo.
This time around it is all about the penguins and if there is any coherent plot being threaded through their manic adventure – it takes them from Fort Knox to Shanghai to Venice to Rio at breakneck speed – I for one was unable to keep up with it.
As is the custom in today’s kids’ movies, there are a lot of gags for grown-ups, including a joke about interrupting an analogy, a reference to the taxation laws in France and a delightful cameo (voiced by Werner Herzog) featuring television’s nature channels’ ubiquitous doc-makers.
But the tendency to opt for super-hero action is disappointing – the sight of a polar bear armed with a sem-automatic rifle is hardly what the world needs right now.
Though frantically paced – or maybe because of this – its 92 minutes felt like an eternity.
~ John Campbell