Europe’s Most Wanted Pravda
By Steve Herte
Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted (3D) (2012)
The tale of four Central Park Zoo animals, Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) and Gloria the Hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith), who tried to get to Africa in the first movie but wound up in Madagascar, then succeeded in getting to Africa in the second film, are now trying to get home to America. However, the crafty penguins – Rico (John DiMaggio), Skipper (Tom McGrath), Private (Christopher Knights) and Kowalski (Chris Miller) have flown off in their monkey-powered flying machine to Monte Carlo at first promising to fly them all home, but at the last minute vowing never to return.
So Alex and company swim (hey, it’s an animated movie) all the way to Monte Carlo to get the penguins to make good on their promise. When the four wild animals are discovered in the casino, the Animal Control police are brought in, led by the indomitable and obsessive Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand) who has all sorts of creatures’ heads on her wall, but not a lion. To escape her, our little company - along with the penguins, monkeys and King Julien XIII (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer), the lemurs from Madagascar, convince Vitaly the Tiger (Bryan Cranston), Gia the Cheetah (Jessica Chastain), Stephano the Sea Lion (Martin Short) and their circus troupe that they are “circus” and travel with them to Rome.
Here they discover to their dismay that the circus animals are just going through the motions and their performances in the Coliseum (yes, that Coliseum) bomb colossally. The penguins buy the circus with their gold and jewels from their winnings and Alex decides to reinvent the circus in a grand speech. “Think of those people from Canada with their budget-priced pharmaceuticals who reinvented the circus by taking out the animals! Well, you can take the animals out of a circus, but you can’t take the animals out of the circus. You know what I mean.”
They get behind him and create an eye-popping series of feats greatly enhanced by the 3D special effects and perform in London to raves. A wealthy backer from America sees the acts (he’s wearing cowboy clothes and has an eagle on his shoulder – you can’t get more American than that) and brings the circus to New York. Still, Captain DuBois doggedly follows them everywhere to get her prize causing havoc each step of the way.
This movie clearly tops the two previous films in excellent writing (there was no way to remember all the jokes and asides), clean, smooth animation (you forgot they were just characters and could identify with them), and really difficult camera angles (chase scenes done looking up from the road surface) along with the 3D effects. The laughs are abundant, the pathos is enough to bring tears and the music track had the audience dancing. It’s difficult to tell if there will be any more sequels, being that the tale has come full circle, but if there is, this one will be hard to top.
281 Lafayette Street (south of Houston), New York
A single vertical banner and an enclosed stairway are all you see on the street when coming to Pravda. At the foot of the stairs is an ancient unmarked door and you almost expect a trap door to open in it at eye level with a shady character asking you for the password. But you press on, and down a few more steps you arrive at what looks like a Russian underground train station with arched ceilings and alcoves, and sconce lighting providing the track numbers. You hear James Bond movie themes playing and are led to a corner banquette covered in red leather. You sit at a round, aluminum-covered table and order a “Caviar Martini” – chilled vodka with a small spoon of black caviar in it – as you read the menu (you can choose from 70 different vodkas).
You decide to start with the Crispy Oysters on the half shell with a fresh horseradish and dill sauce, topped with salmon roe. With each delightful crunch you savor the slightly briny flavor of the roe mixed with the light texture of the oysters.
Your main course is the Zakouski Platter – a selection of three each of four Russian Hors D’Oeuvres – Crispy Potato Pancakes topped with Scottish Smoked Salmon (such an awesome combination with a light mayonaise), Roasted Eggplant Dip (whipped with ground sesame and garlic and served on a round of toast), Scrambled Eggs with a Caviar Garnish (very light and tasty) in a pastry cup, and Spinach and Cheese Pirozhki (an explosion of goodness in a triangular dumpling). Having brought your appetite, you choose a side of the Home Made Potato Chips, served with a dip made from Crème Fraîche and (you guessed it) caviar.
You notice a red wine on the list from Georgian Russia, but your waitress advises you that it is sweet, so you choose a crisp Macon Pierreclos 2009 Chardonnay which adds just the right sparkle to your meal.
Now, since you’re feeling a little full, you choose the Strawberries with a Dark Chocolate dipping sauce and a cup of Verbena Tea and you are James Bond in a little secret hideaway, far from New York – possibly with a gorgeous dining companion. This is the Pravda (Truth) experience.