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Directors: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

Producers: Teresa Cheng and Mireille Soria

Written by: Mark Burton and Billy Frolick

Cast: The voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cedric The Entertainer, Andy Richter, Sacha Baron Cohen


Once again, a new opus from the folks at PDI/Dreamworks reinforces why the work and features from Pixar are significantly more exceptional. Whereas Pixar makes movies, PDI/Dreamworks makes products. Stuff like Madagascar is not working or pushing further the standard of animated features. If anything, it sets events back, even if it is computer-animated.

PDI/Dreamworks yet again goes the high-powered celebrity/movie star casting route here. The Central Park Zoo animals—Marty the zebra (Rock), Alex the lion (Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Smith), and Melman the neurotic, hypochondriacal giraffe (Schwimmer)—are not real characters. They are thin, one-dimensional archetypes with movie star voices. And I still don’t see the point. The casting is distracting at most, kids probably don’t care, and there are much better and more talented voice actors (e.g., Mark Hammill, the best Joker ever) in the industry who work a lot cheaper. It’s just not necessary, and if the Pixar flicks have proven anything it’s that the movie star voice casting/marketing is ultimately irrelevant and pointless. Then again, PDI/Dreamworks don’t make animated features with the high-quality stories and characters of Pixar, so they have no other choice than going for the LCD.

So here, we have Marty the zebra, who’s grown quite bored and restless with New York life, while his friends Alex, Gloria, and Melman have grown way too comfortable with domestication. Marty longs to find his roots in the wild and Alex thinks he’s nuts. After getting inspiration from the penguin strike force, Marty tries to take a trip through Grand Central Station. After his friends follow him in order to stop him, they are soon captured and shipped out to a Kenyan Wildlife Preserve. Mishaps occur, and they end up on Madagascar, which is home to a bunch of annoying, cutesy lemurs voiced by Ali G and Cedric The Entertainer. But now that they are in the wild, Alex is most dominant predator around and his baser instincts start to emerge.

When I said LCD earlier, that’s indicative of the entire project. The humor here is dumb and juvenile, with a few of the token adult jokes and movie references thrown in that kids necessarily might not get. Most of the “comedy” comes from slapstick and objects crashing and banging into each other. There’s also the use of contemporary and pop music which Dreamworks seems to use constantly, to painful effect.

The funniest characters to come out of this sub-par kiddie picture are the rag-tag penguin attack squad. Had there been more focus on them rather than the annoying leads, the experience might’ve been slightly more tolerable. It just disappoints me that co-director Darnell of the first Dreamworks/PDI movie, Antz, follows it up with this excrement.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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