Madagascar (2005) / Animation-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for mild language and some crude humor
Running Time: 86 min.

Cast (voices): Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter
Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Screenplay: Mark Burton, Billy Frolick
Review published May 30, 2005

It used to be exciting to see a new 3D animated feature, but after some dull outings of late with Shark Tale, Robots, and now, Madagascar, the eye-candy thrill is gone and we need something more to keep our interest.  Unfortunately, if there is any interest in Madagascar, it will probably come mostly from very young viewers, as the comedy and events that transpire are lively and colorful enough for toddlers and those just entering grade school, but there's little in substance for most everyone else. 

Madagascar starts off in setting in New York's Central Park Zoo, where the main attractions are Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller, Meet the Fockers), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock, Head of State), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer, Six Days Seven Nights), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith, Collateral), a couple of chimps, and a crew of rascally penguins.  Tired of his urban existence, Marty yearns to see more of the outside world, and makes his escape, along with his friends out to stop him before its too late.  The breakout goes awry, as the animals are deemed to be shipped back to Africa, where they are slated to spend their days at a wildlife reserves.  However, another mishap occurs, stranding the animals on the island of Madagascar, where they find they must fend for themselves in an eat-or-be-eaten existence they aren't altogether prepared for.

Unlike many of the 3D animated features that have come out before it, Madagascar isn't revolutionary, or even evolutionary.  It is a complete formula picture, full of cartoon characters, lots of moments for throwing in crowd pleasing songs to sing along to, fart gags, and in between, a few inside jokes, asides, and pop culture references to try to appeal to adults in the audience.  There really isn't enough humor here to keep most adults from nodding off, and kids will probably not understand any of the jokes aimed at older generations, so the kitchen sink approach suffers from too much of one and not enough of the other.  While films like Shrek and the Finding Nemo managed to have the right balance to keep everyone amused, Madagascar seems to be spread very thin in its material.  The characters are very similar to those we've seen before in similar animated movies, and for some reason, most of the characters in Madagascar annoy more than they amuse.

I could just label Madagascar as a stunningly made kids film and give it a pass, but it's clear the makers of it are going for mass appeal.  In that regard, the results are less than favorable, so if you're looking for another film to appeal to all ages, you will probably find yourself growing anxious for the film to finally end, even though the youngest in your family will want to see it again (and again and again).  Despite the kind of money Dreamworks pumps into the artistic and computer graphic element, it's the story telling that is the key to a lasting film, and without much of a story, there also isn't much of a movie.

-- Followed by Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012)

Qwipster's rating:

2005 Vince Leo