Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Mark Burton, Billy Frolick, Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Tom McGrath, Christopher Knights, Chris Miller, Andy Richter, Conrad Vernon
PG (For mild language, crude humor and some thematic elements)
Central Park Zoo is the home of many animals who’ve spent their lives raised in captivity where they are put on display for the enjoyment of others. Madagascar follows the lives of four such animals.
Marty (Chris Rock) is a zebra who has just celebrated his birthday. His friends Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) have given him gifts and a party but Marty longs to return to the wilds of Africa. When he takes a late night stroll through the New York City streets, Alex gets worried and they go in search of him.
The four are boxed up and shipped off to another zoo for their midnight escapade but when a mishap tosses them into the ocean, they wash up on an island where the natives have sought for something or someone to save them from the ravenous carnivores of the jungle.
The acting talent featured in Madagascar makes the film infinitely more palatable than the plot can eke out. Rock is one of those performers you either like or you don’t. Here, he is decently likeable. Hot off his lackluster performance at the Academy Awards, Rock makes his zebra as entertaining as possible. Stiller is virtually unrecognizable as the preening Alex. His voice isn’t easily identifiable but that seems more a result of the extreme difference from the characters he plays in films like Meet the Parents and Mystery Men than from any alteration of tone.
Pinkett-Smith (Ali , Collateral ) is significantly underutilized and Schwimmer (Friends ) overused. Gloria could have been a far more interesting character had she been developed further and Melman was so blearily one-dimensional that it was hard to see any other use for the character.
Many of the problems with this feature could be attributed to the script. Madagascar is immensely predictable and while the “it’s in my nature” life lesson is well taught, it is more of a punchline than a moral. There are times when the humor seems to string an entire scene together as if there is no substantive dialogue or situation that could be explored.
An example of this point is the scene where Alex arrives on the beach of Madagascar and searches agonizingly for his friends, finding himself lost in a place he does not recognize. Then, instead of exploring the emotionally-charged feeling of loneliness, Alex finds Melman in his box and eventually the others, all linked by a series of one-line jokes and humorous situations. The potential for substance is instantly lost and never regained.
This film is on the same par quality-wise as director Eric Darnell’s previous feature Antz. Madagascar is significantly lighter than the bug tale but Antz was more a Woody Allen comedy than an animated feature. He understands what is funny and obnoxious and employs both, the latter without need.
Madagascar is intended for children and that’s the group to which this film will appeal. Unlike more adult-themed animated features like Beauty and the Beast and Toy Story 2 , Madgascar fails to absorb the audience that will be forced to attend with their children. Parents can rarely enjoy a film as much as their children and while this movie is perfect for kids, it’s not terribly engrossing for adults.
June 14, 2005