(director/writer: Eric Darnell/Tom McGrath; screenwriters: Mark Burton/Billy Frolick; editor: H. Lee Peterson; music: Hans Zimmer; Voices of: Ben Stiller (Alex, Lion), Chris Rock (Marty, Zebra), David Schwimmer (Melman, Giraffe), Jada Pinkett Smith (Gloria, Hippo), Sacha Baron Cohen (Julien), Cedric the Entertainer (Maurice), Andy Richter (Mort); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Teresa Cheng/Mireille Soria; DreamWorks; 2005)
“It should mostly catch the attention of the younger set, but there are some gags left over for their parents (lots of slick cultural references and poo yuks).”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A good-natured spirited family orientated DreamWorks computer-animated feature that’s directed and written by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, and cowritten by Mark Burton and Billy Frolick. It should mostly catch the attention of the younger set, but there are some gags left over for their parents (lots of slick cultural references and poo yuks).
It opens in Manhattan’s Central Park Zoo, where the animal friends of the zebra Marty (voice of Chris Rock) throw him a 10th birthday party. Frustrated with his confinement, thinking of the zoo as a glorified jail, Marty heads for Grand Central Terminal with a tunneling band of amusing penguins, as he seeks the grassy wilds of Connecticut and they the Antarctica. Three of Marty’s concerned animal pals go after him including best friend, the chatty egotistical lion called Alex (Ben Stiller), who lives for the attention he gets from the visitors; a little less ecstatic about the zoo are the big sisterly serious-minded hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the hypochondriac giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer). There’s a great scene with them on the subway in pursuit. But the zoo animals are spotted and the animal rights activists think they are all unhappy with their zoo confinement and thereby get them packed in four crates and shipped back to a wildlife preserve in Kenya. An accident occurs and they wash up on the shores of Madagascar (which they mistake for the San Diego zoo). The jungle comes as a culture shock to these tame animals, with only the zebra glad to be in Madagascar. The fight for survival in the jungle becomes more comical than frightening, as it shows how little they are prepared for this new experience. In the jungle they meet the lemurs. Julien is the lovable rascal king of the lemurs (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his suspicious sidekick is Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer). The experience in the wild brings on an identity crisis to the zoo creatures and shows tensions arising since there’s no humans to care for them and they now have to become hunters.
I hope the kiddies like it better than I did. To me it ran longer than the fifteen minutes most cartoons should run, before they inevitably become tiresome (the allotted time that harkens back to the days when theaters showed cartoons before their feature film, or films, instead of running commercials). Albeit, it has excellent craftsmanship and a good-themed children’s story about friendship. But it tries very hard to show people and animals have a lot in common. What it doesn’t do is show people and animals also have a lot that is not in common (the film’s depiction of life in the wild bears no resemblance to life in the wild).
REVIEWED ON 11/25/2005 GRADE: C+