- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © DreamWorks
Reviewed by Andy Kurtz
rying to build off the inexplicable success of its “Shrek” franchise, not to mention step out of the shadow of Disney and Pixar, DreamWorks Animation brings us “Madagascar,” a shallow attempt at filmmaking and humor. Featuring an all-star team of comedic voice talent in Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Sacha Baron Cohen (AKA Ali G), David Schwimmer and Andy Richter, it is difficult to imagine that the movie could not generate consistent laughs. Unfortunately for DreamWorks, and especially for the audience, it does not.
The story opens at New York's Central Park Zoo where Marty the Zebra (Rock) dreams of escaping the confines of the cage and seeing the wild. When Marty disappears one night, his best friend Alex the Lion (Stiller) sets out to find him with the help of a hypochondriac Giraffe (Schwimmer) and a sassy hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). The ensuing hunt for Marty in Manhattan is the film’s biggest highlight as the three brave Times Square, the subway and Grand Central Station in search of their missing friend.
Ironically, it is when the story shifts to the main characters’ arrival in Madagascar that the movie begins to stumble. Focusing less on the characters and more on cheap, painfully overused pop culture references and lame dance routines, “Madagascar” begins to lose its appeal. These elements do nothing to enhance the story or develop the characters, and thus begin to drag the movie down to a point where neither children nor adults can enjoy themselves.
There are some things that work in “Madagascar,” however. The animation is impressive with the skin and the fur of the animal characters being incredibly lifelike without diminishing any of the cuteness that is vital to a children’s film. Chris Rock turns in arguably his best performance as Marty, showing a surprising amount of range for the comedian. In addition, the supporting cast of characters and the voice talent behind them add some much needed laughs. The foursome of penguin commandos, a tribe of zany lemurs and two hilarious monkeys (one British, the other a hand-signaling mute) are by far the funniest things in the movie.
In the end, though, “Madagascar” still falls well short of the successful formula the studio stumbled onto with its “Shrek” films, and barely registers the laughs, thrills or emotional substance characteristic in any of the Pixar films. “Madagascar” does have its charms and its moments of good-natured nonsense, yes, and the movie is thankfully short in length, but ultimately one would do better to look elsewhere.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
A virtual carbon copy of the original DVD release, the only thing new on this single-disc Blu-ray is a pop-up trivia track full of cool little facts about the making of the film. The rest of the extras also appear, including an audio commentary track with directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell, scene-specific penguin commentary, and three production featurettes (“Meet the Cast,” “Behind the Crates” and “The Tech of Madagascar”). Rounding out the set is a short film starring the popular penguins (“A Christmas Caper”) and a handful of interactive games for the kids.