This movie is the third in the Madagascar series. Probably not the last, we’ll see. Throughout most of it, it’s just another passé Dreamworks flick, except for the amazing circus scene where each character displays their talents in a mind-blowingly beautiful sequence. The sheer beauty in the scene caught me so off-guard I actually felt my eyes tear up. To the art director, Shannon Jeffries, brava! Despite a few dirty jokes, this movie is really aimed at younger children, which makes its Gospel message simple and easy to share with that audience.
Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman are in Africa after the last film and they are longing for New York City again. They head up to Monte Carlo, where the Penguins are with a flying machine, expecting to hop a flight home. When they get there, they become the target of a persistent animal control officer, Captain DuBois. They escape by joining a trainload of circus animals, telling them that they are also Circus animals. Later, that lie becomes a cleaver that divides their friendship.
I don’t think we should simply use this as a “lying is bad” lesson. Instead, let’s learn why lying is a bad thing. In some cultures, lying is an appropriate social interaction. Even in American culture, “being nice” is considered to be better than telling the truth (does this dress make me look fat?). At its core, lying is like stealing a piece of reality from someone else. When we hide the truth, we’re keeping the other party from making informed decisions and appropriate responses. Lying is very rarely the best card to play. If our children learn that early, it will save them a lot of heart-ache in the future.
Captain DuBois’ goal is not to capture Alex and his friends to return them to the zoo where millions of people would enjoy seeing them. She wants them for herself, dead and their heads mounted on her wall. She’s actually a villain with a sick motive that almost no one, even trophy hunters, would support. She reminds me of Satan. Satan stops at nothing to take each of us down; he doesn’t want us out in the world, doing good things that benefit people or praising God. He wants us to remain fallen, with him.
The main characters and the circus animals need to put on a great show to get the American promoter to bring them to New York for an American tour. But the circus animals are all down hearted because their inspiration, a tiger named Vitaly has lost his passion. Vitaly used to jump through rings, but he was never satisfied, always pushing himself to do the impossible. Smaller and smaller, and when the ring could get no smaller… he set it on fire and injured himself. Remembering the height of glory from which he had fallen; Vitaly did not want to settle for less and instead did nothing. The rest of the circus followed his example.
As Christians, we need to be aware of what our example does to others. When someone sees us, do they want to make themselves better because of us, or do they just give up trying? The resulting performance that the circus animals give is incredibly amazing, but without Vitaly kicking things off, none of that glory would have been seen.
When Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman finally reach the zoo, they realize it isn’t what they wanted after all. Now that they know there’s something better to be part of, they can’t settle for the zoo… they want to go back and join the circus. We, too, may set our hearts on some great goal or vision, only to arrive and be disappointed by it. There is one thing that will never disappoint us, that is the Glory of God. In Eternity, that will be our everyday experience. Though it is ok to have other goals, many of which are good, our ultimate goal should be Heaven, and any goal that would stand in the way of that is worth giving up.
- At the beginning of the movie, Alex and his friends want nothing more than to be back in NY. Have you ever been homesick? Did you know that our true home is in God’s presence? How often do you long for your heavenly home? (Hebrews 11:14-16, Philippians 3:20)
- When the animals need to escape quickly, they lie about being circus animals. At first it seems like they get away with lying and everything is fine, but later when the truth comes out, they lose their friends. Have you ever told a lie and thought you got away with it and then later wished you had told the truth? When we lie, we are taking away other people’s ability to make a good decision for themselves with all the facts available. (Leviticus 19:11, Proverbs 21:6, Jeremiah 9:3)
- Captain DuBois is trying to catch Alex and his friends for a very selfish reason. She wants to take off their heads and put them on her wall, keeping them from entertaining people at the zoo or circus. In a similar way, Satan wants to capture us, and keep us from being happy in God’s Kingdom. (John 10:10)
- Vitaly was very talented, but he was never satisfied and pushed himself too far. Eventually he gave up and stopped trying. All the circus animals that looked up to him also gave up and the whole circus ended up bad. When Vitaly finally came back and jumped through the tiny hoop again, all of the animals were inspired to do their best. When your friends look at you, are they inspired to do their best, or do they look at you and decide that it’s not worth it to do their best? (Matthew 5:16)
- Alex and his friends finally get home in the zoo and they realize it isn’t as great as they had remembered. Have you ever expected something to be great and then were disappointed that it wasn’t that good? The Bible tells us that the Heavenly home we will live in through Eternity is even better than our greatest hopes. We will never be disappointed by Heaven, it will be even more beautiful than the scene in the movie where all the animals were putting on the circus show. Isn’t it great to have something so wonderful to look forward to? (1 Corinthians 2:7-9)