Australian Council on Children and the Media

Madagascar 3: Europe's most wanted

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Not recommended under 5, PG to 7 (Violence)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Madagascar 3: Europe's most wanted
  • a review of Madagascar 3: Europe's most wanted completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 September 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to violence and some scary scenes
Children 5-7 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and some scary scenes
Children 8 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Madagascar 3: Europe's most wanted
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence and crude humour
Length 93 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

This animated film features many of the characters from previous Madagascar adventures.  The opening sequence depicts former Central Park zoo animals Alex the lion (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and a group of lemurs headed by King Julien XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen) still stranded in the plains of Africa.  Too late, they discover that the penguins, led by Skipper (Tom McGrath) have built an aircraft in which to leave Africa.  Following the penguins’ departure, the four friends despair that they will never leave Africa, and so decide to try snorkelling their way to Europe.

 Initially, all goes well and the group finally locate the penguins in Monaco.  In the weeks before the reunion, the penguins have made the most of the gambling opportunities in Monte Carlo, and won a small fortune, which they intend to use as a means to return to New York. Unfortunately, their plans are thwarted by French animal control officer, Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand), who recognises the missing zoo animals and seeks to capture and return them to New York. 

 In a bid to escape DuBois and her officers, the animals join a travelling European circus troupe.  At first, the zoo animals lie about their backgrounds in order to be accepted by the established circus performers.  As the weeks pass, however, the new recruits build friendships with troupe members such as Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain), Vitaly the Russian tiger (Brian Cranston), Stefano, the Italian sea lion (Martin Short) and Sonya the bear (Frank Welker).  Eventually, these new relationships are tested when the zoo animals’ initial deceptions are uncovered and their ongoing freedom is threatened.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Deception; betrayal; separation from loved ones; loss of personal freedom

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There are many incidents of violence perpetrated by people towards animals in this movie, such as:

  • Multiple scenes where Captain DuBois and her officers verbally threaten the zoo animals
  • Two scenes where Captain DuBois threatens to cut off Alex’s head with a hand saw, which she holds menacingly above him
  • Captain DuBois’ darts hit all of the central zoo characters, who subsequently collapse onto the ground

There are some depictions of violence perpetrated by animals in response to human aggression, such as when:

  • Alex the lion grabs Captain DuBois around the neck
  • An unnamed chimpanzee fires bananas from a plane’s machine gun at Captain DuBois
  • The penguins shoot Captain DuBois with her dart gun, and she collapses onto the ground.  Later, DuBois is shown bound and gagged inside a shipping crate.

There are also several violent episodes occurring between animals, such as when:

  • Freddie the dog punches Stefano the sea lion in the mouth
  • Sonya the bear seemingly swallows King Julien the lemur’s head, but soon spits it out intact
  • Vitaly the tiger vents his anger by throwing several knives and meat cleavers at Alex the Lion and Stefano the sea lion.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including:

  • a dream sequence where the animals are portrayed as ghost-like figures
  • one scene where Captain DuBois acts like a bloodhound, and the scents that she detects create ghost-like visions of the animals she is tracking
  • several close-up images of Captain DuBois’ twisted, almost snarling features during moments of intense rage
  • the scene when the animals first meet Sonya the circus bear, in a darkened freight train carriage - all that can be seen at first are two shining red eyes in the darkness, and we hear an unsettling growl, followed by heavy foot-falls. 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Melman the giraffe climbs up and begins walking across a tight-rope, but becomes immobilised by fear.  As a result, he slips several times and spins around the high-wire, barely managing to hold on.  Eventually, he is rescued by Gloria, the hippopotamus
  • Alex the lion slips while running along the roof of a speeding train, and is left hanging by one paw
  • Alex the lion experiments on the flying trapeze, but falls off and is shown plunging towards the earth.  He lands on the safety net, but children may at first think that he will die
  • Stefano the sea lion is fired from a canon and crashes head-on into a rocky cliff face.
  • Vitaly the tiger experiences flashbacks to a horrific fire that almost killed him.  Memories of this event fill Vitaly with fear when he considers reincorporating the burning ring acrobatic stunt into the circus routine.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

  • Ducati motorcycles
  • other movies, including the earlier Madagascar films, Driving Miss Daisy, the James Bond series, and Austin Powers
  • a lot of associated marketing and branding of products

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie including: 

  • several scenes when King Julien the lemur verbalises his feelings for Sonya the bear, which are sometimes quite blunt, such as, “I want to kiss you from head to toe…”
  • references to homosexuality, such as King Julien’s feathered pink headdress, mincing gait, and penchant for bursting into cabaret numbers, which is suggestive of a drag-queen.  In one scene, this suggestion is verbalised, when King Julian says to Sonya, “come here, my hairy queen”
  • a scene in which King Julien says angrily to Sonya the bear, “No means No!” after a passionate session which turns rough.  Although children will not understand this reference to the famous anti-rape slogan, it makes light of a serious social problem. 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • several scenes show King Julien kissing, stroking, cuddling, or climbing on top of Sonya the bear

Use of substances

  • a chimpanzee smokes a banana
  • an unidentified American financier smokes a cigar

Coarse language

There are some substitute swear words and a number of put downs, including:

  • “Flippin’ heck”;
  • “Bol-shevik”, enunciated to sound like “Bullshit”;
  • some gender-based put-downs, such as, “You hit like a girl” and “Move over, Miss Daisy” (both of which are addressed to male characters)
  • derogatory references to mental illness, such as, “She’s crazy”, “Crazy woman”, and “psycho”

In a nutshell

Madagascar 3: Europe’s most wanted is an entertaining animated family comedy, although it contains frequent violence, some scenes that may scare younger children, and some coarse language that children may imitate.  The main message of the movie is the importance of trust and loyalty.   

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • helping others
  • cooperation
  • freedom
  • courage in overcoming personal fears

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • the benefits of learning how to work together towards shared goals, as opposed to the actual negative results of physical violence which are not shown in this film
  • the pros and cons of gambling
  • the consequences of lying
  • the ways in which our ideas about and attitudes towards animals shape the ways we treat them.  eg using animals for human amusement and profit, such as in zoos and circuses 

 The film could also be used as a springboard for discussions with children about geography (given that the animals travel across three continents during their escapades).

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