Movie Review: Madagascar
by Scott Alan
June 1, 2005
A review of an animated movie from the point of view of a cartoonist? What a concept! I had the opportunity to check out this film on opening weekend, something rare for me, and thought you'd all like a peek at the film before going to see it. It's all just my opinion so you can take it for what it's worth.
he next big thing out of the box (or the cage) from the good people at Dreamworks this year is Madagascar. An animated tale (spelled that way on purpose) about four animal friends living in the Central Park Zoo who end up going wild.
Alex = Ben Stiller
Marty = Chris Rock
Melman = David Schwimmer
Gloria = Jada Pinkett Smith
Julien = Sacha Baron Cohen
Maurice = Cedric the Entertainer
Mort = Andy Richter
In a nutshell: Marty the zebra has visions of a bigger world outside the captivity he knows in the Central Park Zoo. He meets up with four penguins hell-bent on tunneling out and heading to Antarctica. Soon, his own escape plan is hatched. Marty's best pals (Alex the lion - Gloria, the hippo - & Melman, a hypochondriac giraffe) seem content with their surroundings, but when Marty decides to hop a train and visit the "wilds" of Connecticut, his buddies stage a furry intervention. The authorities intervene, and the quartet is packed away on a ship, ostensibly bound for another zoo. Instead, their crates wash up on the lush island of Madagascar. There they meet the resident population of lemurs who adopt their new friends, especially the lion, as protectors of their tribe.
The wild is all about survival, and although Madagascar makes the struggle for survival funny, it doesn't make it any less bleak. The four animals, having been raised in captivity, are confronted by a world in which everybody seems to be eating each other, and it's appalling. One of the best things was the demise of the little duckie. The regular meals that made it possible for the lion and the zebra to be best buddies are no longer being carted in by human handlers, and so new tensions develop leading the lion to see his pal the zebra as food (literally) rather than seeing him as a friend. The rest of the film is really all about a choice for Alex the lion between food and friendship.
What was good: Dreamworks produced their usual fantastic animation technique again which was fun and eye catching. Especially the photo-realistic New York sequences. The animation is visually stunning, and the animals' stylized rendering and friendly look is in keeping with the energetic mood of the movie. Somewhat more "cartoony" then Dreamworks other recent works, but that's okay by me. The voice work is uniformly solid. The jokes and general humor were spot on and kept you laughing at the right times. The penguins. The Penguins sold it. Really.
What was bad: The thin story, which sometimes feels like a series of one-liners strung together, though this is wisely kept short. Once the pack of zoo animals get acclimated to life on Madagascar and win over the restless lemurs, the story seems to stall and lack some direction. It's frustrating to see this wonderful-looking, and quite funny survival tale fall short of its potential. While motivations and situations were clear-cut and energetically rendered back in the urban jungle, the script, falls apart in the real jungle, especially in its attempt to deal with those darker impulses.
Bottom line: After an extremely promising start, this inspired computer-animated comedy gets lost in the wild. Zoo animals bolting their confined quarters doesn't sound like a promising scenario for an animated movie. But in Madagascar, the concept works largely on the strength of the comedic actors who voice the key animal characters. I feel that most people will find "Madagascar" not as "award winning" as the Shrek movies, but an improvement over Shark Tale which did poorly in most peoples opinions and critical reviews. Thanks to the ad-libbed lines of the talented cast, however, parents won't feel held captive during the experience and even with the faults they see in the film they should find this a good comedy, a fine animation, and time well spent. I did.
Contact: Scott Alan
Not just toons, ScotttoonS! Visit ScotttoonS.com to see the work of Scott Alan, performer and freelance cartoonist.