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