Reviewed by: Josh Morrall

Madagascar is the destination of four animals that have been raised in the comfortable surroundings of the Central Park Zoo in New York. Yet, Marty (Chris Rock) longs to experience the paradise that is pixelated in front of his pen in the form of a mosaic of the wild. Alex (Ben Stiller), the King of the Zoo and Marty's best friend, is far from salivating at the prospect of leaving his stage and venturing into the untamed land of the unknown.

Along for this exciting ride are Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith). Whilst Gloria acts as a mother figure for the rest of the gang (and thus adds minimal intrigue to the plot), Melman steals the first half of the show with his slapstick antics and constant complaint over the sanitary condition of whoever and whatever he meets. Schwimmer's part deadpan, part eccentric vocal performance makes Melman a joy to watch, especially in the funniest scene of the film in which he retrieves (with his tongue) a urinal cake that he believes to be a mint.

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This takes place in the background of the scene's action, as does most of what Melman does, which means that many of the shots in Madagascar reward the audience for looking closer and makes the majority of the film absorbing. The supporting characters are also vital to the comic proceedings. The penguins are consistently funny, as is Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), the vastly arrogant self-proclaimed King of the Lemurs.

It is when the film drifts away from the mad frolicking of its outlandish characters and focuses on the central four's adjustment to the jungle that it becomes less amusing and thus, unfortunately, more like Shark Tale. There are some nice touches - the homage to Cast Away, The Wicker Man and Planet Of The Apes, all in five minutes - and certainly some hilarious moments, such as the routine spitting out of sea water as if it were a fine beverage, but the pace suffers enough for the audience's interest to wane and, perhaps most horrifyingly, cause the kiddies to get restless.

This break in the action is underlined by the opening half of the film, which provides constant and quite savage hilarity and reminds the more cynical (re)viewers what it feels like to be entertained without the concern of cinematic conventions being developed. Madagascar is by no means a classic piece of animation, but it is vastly entertaining, providing blatant humour, in the form of Julien's dance routines, as well as subtle humour, through Melman and other devices. Towards the end, it regains its comic momentum, although not before delving into Alex's hunger-induced madness, which introduces a darker side to the film.

Despite its weaknesses, Madagascar remains one of the funniest films of the year.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2005
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Four animated animals from Central Park Zoo are shipwrecked on the wild shores of Madagascar.
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Read more Madagascar reviews:

Kotleta ****
Max Blinkhorn ***1/2
The Exile **1/2

Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath

Writer: Mark Burton, Billy Frolick, Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath

Starring: voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer, Andy Richter, Tom McGrath, Christopher Knights, Chris Miller, Eric Darnell

Year: 2005

Runtime: 86 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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