Madagascar (2005)
Directed by Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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After Marty (Chris Rock), a bored zebra living in the Central Park Zoo, attempts to escape to the wilds of Connecticut, his friends, Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith), escape as well so that they can bring him back. The whole group is, however, caught in Grand Central Station and shipped off to Africa. While on their way there, the vessel they are on is hijacked by a gang of deranged penguins and the crates the heroes are in are knocked overboard. Fortunately, the animals wash up on the shores of Madagascar, where they enjoy the hospitality of Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), the king of the lemurs, and his sidekick Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer). While the herbivores love their new life, Alex misses being the center of attention and gets hungrier and hungrier, until his friends begin to look very tasty.

Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath's computer generated film Madagascar may never rise above the ordinary, but it is entertaining to watch.


The story the directors tell is fast paced and includes the odd clever detail. I will not claim that it is ever inspired, or even that it does not have its tiresome or annoying moments, but these are, fortunately, generally offset by its moderate virtues. In fact, a number of the episodes of which it is composed, that tend to resemble small, relatively independent skits, are reasonably well crafted.

Similarly, the movie's comic elements range from genuinely funny to dreadful. Actually, some of the jokes are suffused with just enough cruelty that they may even make the viewer laugh. The directors' humorous depictions of the dangers of the wild, where cute little animals, including a fuzzy yellow duckling, are devoured by larger, fiercer creatures, are hilarious. Others, regrettably, are not so good. For example, the scene in which Alex pounds upon the sands of a beach in front of a ruined effigy of the Statue of Liberty, mimicking the scene at the conclusion of The Planet of the Apes, is just painful.


Sadly, whatever the appeal of some of the film's occurrences, most of its characters are either bland or irritating. Chris Rock's performance as the voice of Marty is marginally less irksome than is most of the comedian's work, but it is still pretty grating at times. Hardly anyone else displays any great talent, however. Most are utterly hammy in an unfunny, contrived sort of way. Sometimes their exaggeration is effective, but, more often than not, it is just tedious.

Lastly, I should admit that while I am not a great admirer of "three dimensional" computer animation, I did generally enjoy the stylized look of Madagascar. Some of the characters are, frankly, entirely too adorable, but they are given enough appeal by their not having been made to mimic naturalistic forms that they are rarely annoying to look at.


Madagascar may not be able to provide more than a brief diversion, but it does provide that. For younger viewers, its colorful images and vibrant songs may even make watching it genuinely fun.

Review by Keith Allen

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