Audiences Will “Love” Dreamworks’ New Madagascar Special

Courtesy:  Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Dreamworks Home Entertainment/Dreamworks Animation SKG/20th Century Fox/ 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Dreamworks Animations’ Madagascar movies comprise one of the company’s most successful franchises.  It’s so successful in fact that it has even spawned a holiday special titled, Merry Madagascar.  Now the Madagascar gang is back again for yet another holiday special.  This time, love is in the air for the gang as Valentine’s Day nears.  Ironically enough King Julian (once again voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) gets his hands on a perfume called “Love Potion #9” that makes anyone that wears it irresistible.  When the “love potion” is used on Marty, it leads to an unintended effect, which ends up in Marty and the rest of Alex’s friends learning a very valuable lesson about friendship and love.  The moral lesson and the laughs together will keep audiences engaged throughout the course of the special’s near half-hour run time.  To be exact, Madly Madagascar’s run time is closer to twenty-five minutes than thirty.  Though chances are if it is ever run on television, it will reach the half-hour mark thanks to commercials. 

The run-time aside, much of the reason for the enjoyment in this special comes from the special’s writing staff and the voice cast’s ability to interpret the script.  The entire cast from the previous Madagascar movies is back once more, with one more addition.  Phil LaMarr (Futurama) joins the cast as the voice of a wildlife official at a Safari camp who has to chase after the infamous penguins of Madagascar.  That’s right, even the penguins are back, creating their own mischief as the love bug has hit their leader, too.  The original voice actors behind the penguins have returned, too.  Keeping all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that interpreting the script for this special was so simple for the cast as it had to have been old hat for everybody. 

The cast’s interpretation of the writers’ script plays its own role (no pun intended) in the success of this latest special.  Audiences will also appreciate that the CG-based “animation” used in all of the previous Madagascar installments was used in this special, too.  That familiarity of sorts—as minor as it may be—will help make this new installment a welcome return for audiences of all ages.  The pop culture references to Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Palmer, The Black Eyed Peas, and The Clovers also make for their own laughs.  All of this combined with the script writing and voice acting will make Madly Madagascar a Valentines special that the whole family will enjoy year after year.

The main feature included in this new DVD release is enjoyable enough for the whole family.  It’s only part of the overall enjoyment that families will get from this new release.  Just as enjoyable are the bonus shorts included with it.  Two bonus shorts are included on the disc.  The first of the pair is a touching Pixar style piece titled, “First Flight” in which a rather unhappy man learns the meaning of happiness when a baby bird falls from its nest and he ends up teaching the young avian how to fly.  It truly is a moving story as short as it is.  And it will leave both kids and adults smiling and shedding at least some tears of joy.  Being that the only dialogue here so to speak is the man and bird “talking” to each other through bird song, the music played a big role in the success of the story.  It came through in a big way, too.  It added so much emotion to the entire story.  It goes to prove that Pixar just might have some competition next awards season if Dreamworks continues to try its hand with more animated shorts.  And from the viewpoint of this critic, if this short is any indication, more shorts from Dreamworks would be welcome.

The second short of the pair is far less emotional.  Instead it’s on the exact opposite end of the spectrum.  It’s taken from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge movie franchise.  The short, titled, “Hammy’s Boomerang Adventure” is a laugh-a-minute short that follows Hammy and his friends in their discovery of a video camera.  Hammy’s friends use it to play a prank on Hammy.  The writing for this short harkens back to the days of the old Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts with its physical comedy between Hammy and the Boomerang.  And as with the short’s companion Madagascar feature, the original voice actors from Over The Hedge have returned here adding to the hilarity.  Adding even more enjoyment to the short is a little musical number from pop star Ben Folds.  Folds performs a song titled, ‘Heist’ for the short’s end credits.  It’s not that long, obviously.  But it’s still a catchy little tune that will have viewers tapping their toes.  It might even be enough to get audiences interested in hearing more of his music.  His music combined with the equally enjoyable shorts and main feature from the Madagascar gang come together to make for a DVD that any audience will want to check out when it hits store shelves next Tuesday, January 29th.  It will also be available online.  It can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/madly-madagascar.html.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Futurama Vol. 7 Shows the “Future” is Bright For This Show

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Futurama is one of the best shows on Comedy Central today.  Thank goodness the network went out on a limb and listened to the fans of this little show that could.  After having been picked up and resurrected by Comedy Central, this hit show has shown time and again why it is the great show that it is.  Now with the release of its seventh volume, Futurama continues to show why it is one of the elite prime time animated sitcoms out there today.  In the show’s seventh volume, the show’s writers poke fun at the seemingly unending to do surrounding President Obama’s birth certificate in one episode.  In another episode, audiences see Fry and Leela rekindle their romance after Fry and Bender go in search of a frozen mammoth.  And in yet another, the show’s writers even poke fun at The Matrix when Fry goes to the Near Death Star to visit the professor’s parents.  These episodes make for just some of the laughs throughout this collection’s thirteen episodes largely for the jokes.  For those who really know their stuff, they’ll love just as much the inclusion of a pair of fellow veteran actors, as well as a reference to another late comic actor to this set.  Add in some hilarious commentary and some deleted scenes and audiences get another great set of episodes in the show’s seventh volume.  And all of that is just the beginning.  Viewers will find even more great references and jokes when they check out this new set for themselves.

One of the factors that have always made Futurama a great show is that while it does use topical humor in its episodes, it doesn’t bog itself down in that brand of comedy unlike certain other sitcoms.  However, when it does venture into the realm of topical humor, it still manages somehow to remain funny without trying to be too much above itself.  That’s proven in the episode, “Decision 3012.”  The show’s writers spoof the controversy raised by the “birthers” over President Barack Obama’s birth certificate in this episode.  In the place of the president, the writers use a character named Chris Travers, who is a Senator running for Earth President.  Long-time Futurama fans will appreciate the reference to the Futurama movie, Bender’s Big Score in this episode.  Even Matt Groening and David X. Cohen make light of it in the episode’s bonus commentary.  It’s that reference that ends up playing to the episode’s outcome, which viewers will have to find out for themselves when they pick up Futurama Vol. 7.

Futurama’s writers prove in Vol. 7 that they can tackle topical humor and still make funny episodes.  They have also proven again that they’re able to balance keeping the show successful with standalone episodes while also maintaining at least one ongoing storyline in the romance between Leela and Fry.  It would have been so easy for the show’s writers to let the show descend into a serial like so many others.  But thankfully it didn’t.  That’s evident in the episode, “Fun on a Bun.”  Having already broken up again before this episode, an accident with a sausage maker leads Leela to reveal her true feelings for Fry.  She shows her true feelings to Fry when the sausage maker accident leads to a revelation as to what really happened to Fry.  Again, the show’s writers are to be commended for this episode as it proves yet again their ability to maintain a specific storyline without letting the show become a serial.  Movie buffs and sci-fi buffs will especially appreciate the spoof of The Los World tossed into this episode.

As noted already, one of the biggest factors that has made Futurama so successful for so long is not just its ability to balance storylines and avoid becoming a serial, but also its ability to make completely outrageous random adventures for the Planet Express Crew.  In one of its funniest episodes yet, audiences learn a long held secret surrounding Professor Farnsworth after he visits his parents at the Near Death Star.  The writers take a playful stab at The Matrix trilogy both in dialogue and in visual form.  Any true sci-fi geek will love this little jab.    When the professor doesn’t show up at an awards ceremony that Fry is attending, Fry decides to go meet Hubert’s parents.  The result will leave audiences laughing as it kind of turns the whole concept of the “boomerang child” on its ear by reversing it.  This of course leads to a whole other revelation that will leave audiences laughing.  The secret is something that’s been used many times before in many other shows.  But the minimalist way in which it has been used here keeps it funny.

The episodes noted here are just samplings of the laughs audiences can expect to get from Futurama Volume Seven.  Every viewer will find their own laughs throughout the course of the double disc set.  It’s thanks to good writing and an equally able cast that every episode in this set is so enjoyable.  The main cast is profiled throughout each episode’s commentary.  Audiences will appreciate even more some of the bonus tidbits such as learning that fellow veteran voice actor Frank Welker (The Real Ghostbusters, What’s New Scooby Doo, etc.) joins the cast in a handful of episodes this time out.  Welker’s talent makes for even more enjoyment in the episodes in which his talents are profiled. 

The talent of the voice cast gives so much life to each episode.  What viewers get in the final product is proof that that.  That’s also just as evident in the deleted scenes included as bonuses to the set.  Regardless of whether or not the scenes would have fit into the final product, they are more examples of the talent and chemistry of the voice cast.  They serve to show how hard the cast and the writers alike work to offer viewers the best possible product, too so as to live up to the expectations of those audiences who helped so many years ago to show why this show deserved to be brought back.  And they more than do that, making for yet another great set of episodes for any long-time fan of Futurama or even for those who are new to this incredible animated sitcom.  One can only hope that considering this and everything else that makes this new set such a success, fans will see much more of this hit show in the very near “future.” 

Futurama Volume Seven is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered online direct via 20th Century Fox’s online store at http://www.foxconnect.com.  After fans order the new set, they can also check out all the latest Futurama news online at http://www.facebook.com/Futurama and http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/futurama.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.