Written by Mark Burton & Billy Frolick
Directed by Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath
Running Time: 1:20
for mild language, crude humor
and some thematic elements.
Madagascar was an entertaining and at times very funny movie, but the animation wasn't as good as previous CGI films.
On his 10th birthday Marty the Zebra, who has spent his entire life in the Central Park Zoo, decides the time is right for him to leave and get to the wild. His friends, Alex the Lion, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo are happy with their lives, but when Marty escapes, his friends follow. With the help of the penguins, who are trying to escape to Antarctica, the gang from the zoo end up in Madagascar. Alex is beside himself with anger having been forced to leave his perfect, superstar life, while Melman misses his medication. Marty and Gloria are happy with the wild, but things are never quite what they seem. They run into a bunch of lemurs, led by King Julian who wants to use the gang for his own purposes. And in the end, everyone is happy.
From the very moment the movie started I felt as if the animation was, cheaper, for lack of a better word, than past CGI giants such as Shrek and especially Shrek 2. It's hard to explain, but it seemed like animation-lite. The backgrounds were pretty well done and they looked a lot like the streets and buildings in New York City, but the characters seemed as if they were created solely for the voice talent and not to look good. I'm not sure how long Madagascar was in production, but I kept thinking that they rushed certain aspects to get it out by Memorial Day weekend. That being said, while the movie looked like a step down, it certainly had enough moments of humor to keep it above water.
Ben Stiller as Alex the Lion was much too over the top for me. His humor seemed to come from his manic, over-the-top speaking rather than his words being funny. On the other hand was David Schwimmer as Melman the Giraffe, who was a hypochondriac, and was consistently saying something funny. Chris Rock's Marty the Zebra sounded too much like Chris Rock for me to get lost in the character. And Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria the Hippo was OK, but again, didn't have much to say. For me the absolute highlight of the film was the introduction of King Julian the Lemur voiced by Sasha Baron Cohen, better known to audiences as Ali G. His accent sounded vaguely Indian but could have been anything. Everything that came out of his mouth was absolutely hysterical and I never stopped laughing when the character was on screen.
The story, as it was, wasn't anything special. Cute animals trying to escape the zoo and ending up exactly where they set out to go. Pretty standard fare for an animated film. The whole idea behind the movie was probably to come up with cute characters that could be marketed easily and appeal to both kids and adults. Some of the sequences in the film, which mocked movies such as Planet of the Apes and American Beauty were obviously thrown in to try and get a few extra bucks out of older teens and parents, and were sometimes forced into the film without much reason. I appreciated them, but unlike the constant barrage of pop culture references in the Shrek movies, the references in Madagascar didn't flow with the rest of the movie. Fun to pick out, but unnecessary.
There was a secondary story line with the penguins who were also trying to escape and get to their own version of the wild. I enjoyed most of the moments they were on screen because their story was kept short so every time they showed up, something worthwhile was happening. The main story line sometimes had moments where things would slow down and get sappy, which was a bit much for such a short film. I will say however one of the slower sequences had a great throwaway line dealing with 'New Jersey' and 'cesspool' which will make many New Yorkers happy and upset a few New Jerseyians.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I liked Madagascar. I didn't think the animation was as good as other CGI films, and at times the movie was forced. But when it was funny, it was very funny and I think it's a good movie for children especially.
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