Director : s Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath
Screenplay : Mark Burton & Billy Frolick
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2005
In Madagascar, four pampered zoo animals with no survival skills find themselves stranded in “the wild.” This would seem to be a great high-concept idea, but amazingly enough, once the fish are out of water, the movie seems to lose its momentum and starts stumbling all over itself.
The story opens in a fantasy-world version of New York City’s Central Park Zoo, where the animals live in coddled contentment and act like diva superstars. At the center of it all--the “king,” as it were--is Alex (Ben Stiller), a happy-go-lucky lion who loves nothing more than putting on the same grand show for tourists and school field trips day after day. His best friend, a zebra named Marty (Chris Rock), doesn’t see it that way. Marty’s 10th birthday has brought with it a midlife crisis, and he begins to question the enjoyment of living in a zoo and being denied the potential adventures that await him outside its walls.
Following the lead of a quartet of sneaky (and extremely funny) penguins who are planning a break for the Antarctic, Marty takes off for Connecticut, thinking that’s where “the wild” is. Alex, along with their other two friends, a hypochondriac giraffe named Melman (David Schwimmer) and a sweet-talking, no-nonsense hippo named Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), track Marty down at Grand Central Station, but quickly find themselves surrounded by the police and then shipped off to a wildlife preserve in Africa. They never quite make it there, though, as their crates fall off the ship and they wind up on the beaches of Madagascar. This turn of events is a tragedy for Alex (he just wants to go back to his comfy life at the zoo) and a victory for Marty; the other two animals sway somewhere in the middle, although it would seem that the hypochondriac giraffe would be the most freaked out being in the wild since he can’t get his daily regimen of vitamins, medications, and CAT scans.
Up until this point, Madagascar is pleasantly funny and not too hyperextended in trying to cram in pop-culture references (there are a few nods in that direction, including a riff on Saturday Night Fever and a strange use of Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire theme for a moment of parodic romanticism). The angular, slightly retro look of the animation gives the movie a sharp visual appeal (much like The Incredibles, but with animals), and it has a slightly manic Tex Avery quality, particularly in the way the filmmakers are constantly shoving things rapidly into the foreground (usually Melman’s goofy face).
Once in the jungles of Madagascar, though, the movie starts to spit and sputter, despite the introduction of a community of party-happy lemurs led by the hilariously inept King Julian (Borat’s Sacha Baron Cohen) and his skeptical lieutenant Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer). The lemurs are thrilled to have Alex and crew in their company because they scare off the foosas, a pack of ravenous predators that look like a combination of the lion cubs and hyenas from The Lion King (the desolate tract of land the foosas occupy also brings to mind The Lion King). This is all fine and well until Alex, without his daily supply of steaks, starts to get hungry and his old instincts kick in, leading him to eye not only the lemurs, but also Marty, his best friend.
This sounds like a lot to be packed into the second half of the movie, but there is little or no narrative urgency or genuine suspense, so it lacks drive. Alex’s regressing to a more primitive state is an intriguing plot twist that never finds true fulfillment; since Madagascar is a kid’s movie through and through, you know he’s not going to eat Marty or even any of the lemurs for that matter, so the dramatic scenes in which he battles his inner hunter fall flat. Of course, Alex’s food problem is eventually solved, and given the competition between DreamWorks Animation and Pixar Studios to be the king of the digital animation hill, it’s not surprising that the supposedly trauma-free solution would be quite horrifying to the cast of Finding Nemo.
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish, Portuguese|
|Distributor||DreamWorks Animation SKG Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||September 23, 2008|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Presented in full 1080p high definition, Madagascar looks gorgeous. The image is sharp and extremely well detailed, allowing you to absorb even the most minute intricacies of the computer animation. The colors are bright and natural-looking, from the autumnal reds and oranges of the opening Central Park scenes to the vibrant, lush greens of the Madagascar jungle and the soft blues of the open sky. The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 surround soundtrack (which is not labeled as such on the box) is not overwhelming, but it has a decent amount of kick and several immersive moments that make good use of the surround channels.|
|The Madagascar Blu-Ray disc has a nice array of supplements, almost all of which previously appeared on the DVD, although some are now presented in high-definition. Directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell provide an informative, if never terribly exciting, audio commentary in which they talk primarily about the technical challenges involved in making the film and ruminate about the characters. The Mad Trivia Pop-Up track (which is the only supplement brand-new to the Blu-Ray disc) offers various bits of information about the film, although the desperation to fill the film’s running length is reflected in the fact that many of the blurbs are simply summations of what McGrath and Darnell just said on the commentary. There are a number of featurettes, including “Meet the Wild Cast” (8 min.), which features interviews with the main voice talents; “Behind the Crates” (23 min.), a general making-of featurette; “The Tech of Madagascar” (5 min.), which focuses on the computer technology used to create the film; and “The Enchanted Island of Madagascar” (8 min.), a live-action doc about the actual island. Fans of the penguins will enjoy A Christmas Caper, a 12-minute CGI short film in which they appear, as well as the “Penguin Chat,” which is simply 9 minutes of footage from the film with penguin commentary (both of these are now presented in HD). For the kids there is the “Learn to Draw” featurette, which gives basic instruction on how to draw the Madagascar characters. Finally, there is the music video for “I Like to Move It” and, as with most DreamWorks Animation discs, the DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox, which features musical sequences from other DreamWorks CGI films.|
Copyright ©2008 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © DreamWorks Animation SKG Home Entertainment