Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa


Two things make Madagascar 2 stand out from the usual offer of 3D animation films. The script and the performances (performances? excuse me? I though it was a “cartoon”??). I'll start by the second one instead of the first so as to test if you are alert and engaged, while adding a bit of chaos.

The characters no longer seem to be animated as such at any point. Instead, they now look a lot more natural, and act and move as naturally and effortlessly as yourself (unless of course you are one of those couch potato persons, in which case you can consider that they would easily beat you at that). We often find them trusting comments to other characters, and struggling with their emotions. At times, they even look like their voice actors (I'm certain Ben Stiller would move LIKE THAT if he was a lion). They are alive.

As for the script, we are presented with an enjoyable story with overtones of friendship, love and family. Don't throw up yet. They manage to make it enjoyable and not too cheesy, and top it up with a couple of the most beautifully dialogued scenes seen so far not just in an animated film, but in any film. And this is the key.

3D films have come a long way. More and more, secure in satisfying technological frames by now, 3D-film filmmakers seem to concentrate more and more in something else apart from the animation and the looks themselves, which can only be beneficial for the audience. I see Madagascar 2 as a potential milestone in animation, just as Toy Story 2 -the first script for one of these films to win a Golden globe for best comedy/musical- or, of course, The Incredibles -whose script was also nominated, this time for an oscar, unfortunately but fairly lost out to the exquisite Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, only against another giant could The Incredibles fall!-. Moreover, this existing technological situation, combined with animators' skills and creativity, is meant to keep providing us not only with lots of animation films to come, but with good films. Closer and closer to this academy award for “3D character performance” now.

And yes, the rest is all as expected (I now, I digress). Like in the first "episode", fun characters, simple but very personal visual style and very fast pace. There always seem to be something happening, and the camera is always there to capture it. Go watch it.

The day the earth stood still

Still remaking. Willy-nilly too.

Keanu Reeeves (Matrix), still unable to move his neck after the strains of The Matrix, and an underused Jennifer Connelly (Hulk) get the leading roles in yet another unnecessary remake of an old sci-fi classic, just as it happened before with War of the worlds or Planet of the apes. Jaden Smith (The Pursuit of Happiness), Will Smith's son, is consistently annoying through the whole film and completes the protagonist triplet.

The moralistic message of the film is awkwardly obvious and hardly original, and the plot's surprises seldom surprise. Additionally, the poor choice of James Hong as supporting actor (after playing a blind old Chinese master in the comedy Balls of fury quite recently) doesn't help consider this a serious science-fiction proposal. Maybe the film would had worked if the producers had decided to make a comedy out of it?

Enjoyable visual effects, however, in this slow-paced version that adds nothing of value to the original story but will probably make a considerable figure in the bow office.

The Secret Life of Bees

From "potentially brilliant" to "actually just okay" with no effort.

Quite a few popular faces in this supposedly small, human film: singer Alicia Keys, actresses Queen Latifah (Chicago) and Jennifer Hudson. All of them terribly underused and making very little effort to leave memorable performances. Only Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda) seems to give an acceptable performance. Sadly, however, the high melodramatic charge of the script may ruin the moments at times. Indeed, I heard the audience bursting in laughter before the acting in scenes that were meant to be very serious and dramatic.

In short, a story that entirely relies in its convenient genre and historical background (and these its well known actresses), that promises but doesn't deliver (in fact, doesn't quite now where to go) and that is barely worth watching.

Specially disappointing and sad involving Jennifer Hudson, who plays an amazing leading character in Dreamgirls, whose recent personal tragedy makes it very likely for this to be her last film ever.