Madagascar 3 & Brave: Audience Expectations and Narrative Goals

Shortly after writing about the drive-in experience I made my first trip of the season. The drive-in I frequent does double-features and usually the fit of the bill and whether or not I’ve seen the movies ends up being the deciding factor.

This time in the family-friendly block there were two animated films being shown Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and Brave. The fact that I had seen neither, really wanted to see Brave and they were both in the same medium, made it an easy pick for me.

What I found to be most interesting is in comparing and contrasting the two films, which I did merely because I viewed them back-to-back and because they had any inherent narrative or thematic similarities aside from being in the same medium; is that it was a tremendous study in audience expectation and narrative goals.

With regards to audience expectation: I expected next to nothing from Madagascar 3 except to hear the circus song again and laugh like some human version of Pavolv’s dog and I did, and I got some other chuckles out of it too, more than anticipated. Yes, there were things that were silly and overwrought but for fluff it was OK.

Whereas with Brave, just in the trappings of the story that I knew going in, the implications of those trappings and the potential it had based on that alone; set the bar was set very high.

Now, with regard to narrative goals what I mean is what the stories primary desire is. I believe, first and foremost, in judging a film on its own merits and with regard to what it is trying to accomplish. I won’t knock Austin Powers because it doesn’t stack up to Citizen Kane because it’s not trying to be that, it’s just trying to be funny. Granted with any genre film, yes, they want to successfully execute a story in the given genre and then if you get more out of it that’s icing on the cake, but the extras are not the main objective.

It’s trite but it’s probably easiest to think of it as setting a bar in the high jump, as I alluded to before. Madagascar didn’t set it so high but they cleared it, Brave set it really high and stumbled around a bit, in my estimation.

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t registered a grade on either film anywhere simply because I remember I saw them and found them both middling. Yet, as I alluded to before, that middling for Madagascar 3 is somewhat triumphant and for Brave was really disappointing based on what my perception of them was going in. In essence, I probably felt more frustrated after the better film. While there are still things that bothered me about how it was handled, Brave is still probably would be the one I’d pick if forced, and the one I’d be most likely to revisit.

I haven’t read a lot of press on Brave but I have a feeling that there were many who were talking about what they would’ve preferred happen. Without giving it away that’s not what I mean to say when I say it bothered me. I mean even with all the same givens and without reworking the circumstances there were elements there that could’ve been fine-tuned and much of what was likely to be good about it still was: the message, the struggle and the conflict.

Perhaps what’s most interesting is that I likely wouldn’t have drawn these parallels had I not seen them back-to-back but I did, and Brave was supposed to be the jewel in the crown. Yes, I hyped it a bit but having not read much in detail I did wonder what the complaints were about then the elements that didn’t connect as crisply as they could have came into the mix.

In the end, I thoughtthis a perfect opportunity to address those nuances in narrative evaluation that scores, regardless of you scale, can belie.

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The Drive-In Movie Experience

Today as I surfed around, I discovered that it was the anniversary of the first drive-in theater opening. The first theater opened in Camden, New Jersey. There are several places covering that angle, and Google even had their daily doodle reflect the date.

What struck me as fortuitous timing was the fact that I’ve been anxiously anticipating emails of schedules from a drive-in recently. I’m getting that itch to go again soon. What’s more surprising is that not so long ago I’d never gone at all.

Drive-ins may be a dying breed but they’re by no means extinct. If you’d like to experience one you can go here to find the one closest to you. This is the site I use to find the one I trek to. The interest was kindled by realizing that when vacationing in Central PA, I was not that far removed from some. Therefore, I found the one closest to me, which is a hike.

However, it’s a great time and something a movie buff must try. My recommendation would be to go see something you’ve seen already the first time around. This isn’t that hard to do as the schedules are usually a bit staggered on major releases and they will bring back older films.

For example, my most recent trip was around Halloween to see Paranormal Activity 3 followed by The Exorcist. My initial trip was to see the more family friendly slate of the weekend Dolphin Tale and Real Steel. Those were encore viewings to get my feet wet and used to the experience, which is surprisingly good.

The theatre I go to has two dedicated radio frequencies by which the sound is played in your car. Therefore, if you have good sound system the aural experience is rather good. The visual is not the greatest, which is why it’d behoove you to arrive a little early for a good spot. However, considering some projection snafus I’ve seen and heard about, it’s not the worst experience either.

The admission per person is about equivalent to one ticket at a multiplex. Example, The Delsea Drive-In is $9 per adult, $4 per child; for the double feature. The concession selection is extensive, and like a conventional theater this is where they make their money, but you can buy an outside food permit, if you wish.

So there are the basics regarding the drive-in experience, I suggest you look for one close to you and make a trip of it.