A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this holiday special sequel to the popular Madagascar films has strong positive messages about generosity and goodwill. Expect some very mild flirting between a penguin and a reindeer and a reference to a character’s “booty,” but that’s about as eyebrow-raising as the content gets (there's also one instance of implied drinking, but it's brief and silly). The cartoonish violence is very mild -- so much so that even little kids won’t be upset by a scene of Santa’s sleigh crashing into the ground and the big man suffering a visible bump to the head. If your kids haven’t seen the full-length movies yet, they may want to after watching this.
What's the story?
New York Zoo’s famously displaced foursome has a plan to get home to Manhattan just in time for Christmas, but fate steps in with a major detour when Santa’s sleigh crash-lands on Madagascar and he’s stricken with amnesia. Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller), Melman (David Schwimmer), Gloria (Jada Pinket Smith), and Marty (Chris Rock) -- along with the crafty penguins -- happily commandeer St. Nick’s ride and point it toward the Big Apple, but they soon realize that they’re the only ones who can save Christmas for kids all over the world. When they set aside their own ambitions to help others, they discover that the magic of the season truly knows no bounds.
Is it any good?
Fans of Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa will find this holiday-themed follow-up a worthy addition to the popular series. The special is packed with the same character-based comedy that fans love, complete with a fresh target for the maniacal South Pole penguins: a “polar” rivalry with Santa’s North Pole reindeer. Kids and adults will both enjoy the special's cheerful chuckles punctuated by the quirky animals at the heart of the cast.
Happily, though, there’s a real attempt here to mix feel-good messages about generosity, caring, and compassion with the silly stuff. Viewers will empathize as Alex and his friends face a relatable dilemma in choosing between finally going home and saving Christmas, and parents can draw comparisons between the animals’ predicament and real-life scenarios their kids might be facing, reminding kids that there's real joy to be found in putting others’ needs ahead of our own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the special portrays friendship. Kids: What makes a good friend? How do different personalities complement each other in a good friendship? Which of your friends are very different from you?
In what ways do cartoons use stereotypes for humor? Did you notice any stereotypes or exaggerations in this show? Do any of them seem iffy to you?
Kids: What aspects of the holidays do you most like? What does it mean to refer to Christmas as the “season of giving”? How do you show generosity during the holidays?
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