Reviewed by: The Exile

As Pixar (The Incredibles, Finding Nemo) continues to make mincemeat of the animation competition, DreamWorks is fighting to hold on to audiences by emphasizing humour and strong storylines. When this strategy works, as in both Shrek movies, audiences respond; when it doesn't - did anyone see Shark Tale? - the studio seems destined to drown in Nemo's wake.

Madagascar falls somewhere in the low-to-mid-point of this spectrum, a sporadically funny but underwritten tale aimed mostly at kids - the occasional bursts of adult brilliance that light up the script seem like remnants of a much better draft. In this one, Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), star of New York's Central Park Zoo, is in love with himself, his audience and captivity. Not so content is Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock, aggressively channeling Eddie Murphy's Donkey from Shrek), who dreams of returning to the wild. When Marty escapes, a series of misadventures washes him up on the shores of Madagascar, accompanied by Alex and their friends Melman the hypochondriac Giraffe (voiced by, and weirdly resembling, David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith). Predictably, Marty is thrilled, Melman and Gloria are afraid, and Alex turns savage when his regular diet of bloody steaks is no longer available.

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With blocky-looking creatures and uninspired backgrounds, Madagascar leans heavily on its script and voice work, neither of which is more than competent. In fact, the funniest characters in the movie are voiced by one of the directors (Eric Darnell) and some of his animators: a bunch of sassy penguins who hijack a ship and steer it to Antarctica. Also hilarious are a pair of British-accented chimps who plan to attend a Tom Wolfe reading for the joy of throwing faeces over the author's signature white suit. And as Julien, King of the Lemurs, British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G) delivers his lines with such perfectly pitched effeminacy his scenes venture into places the average kids' movie rarely dares to tread.

Co-writer Mark Burton has written for British TV's dazzlingly rude political satire, Spitting Image, and Madagascar does contain a few treats for adults. Not enough, though, to make the film's 86 minutes feel nearly as brief as it should.

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

Josh Morrall ****
Kotleta ****
Max Blinkhorn ***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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