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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/07/2005

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 86 mins

Brightly coloured but poorly thought out and generally disappointing comedy, despite the odd funny moment.

On the evidence of its recent animated offerings, Dreamworks isn’t going to be giving Pixar any sleepless nights for the foreseeable future. Madagascar is the latest in a line of disappointing animated movies that seems to think that an impressive voice cast will make up for any inadequacies in the plot or script departments. About the best thing you can say for Madagascar is that it’s better than A Shark’s Tale, but that isn’t saying very much.

The Plot

Marty (Chris Rock) is a zebra in New York’s Central Park zoo who dreams of exploring the outside world. When he escapes from the zoo with the aid of a crack squad of penguins his friends Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and ultra-neurotic Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) go after him in an attempt to persuade him to return to their pampered existence.

However, after the animals are discovered at Grand Central Station, they are shot with tranquilliser darts and shipped to the island of Madagascar, where they have to learn to fend for themselves.

The Highlights

If you’ve seen the trailer for Madagascar, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a film about escaped zoo animals hiding out in New York City. In fact, the New York section is the funniest part of the film, meaning that the trailer, in attempting to conceal the main plot of the film, has once again given away most of the best jokes.

There are some nice ideas here (such as the zebra wondering if he’s black or white), but the main characters aren’t as loveable or as interesting as the film clearly wants them to be.

As a result, the funniest moments in the film come from the minor characters, such as the plotting penguins or the erudite monkeys who dream of infiltrating highbrow society and “throwing poo at Tom Wolfe”. Other than that, the hit-rate of gags is disappointingly low.

The Lowlights

The voice cast are okay. Chris Rock is better at voicing cartoon characters than he is at live-action acting (see also Osmosis Jones) but it’s still painful to see him trying too hard. Schwimmer and Stiller come off best as their characters have more to work with, but the voice-acting honours are stolen by, of all people, Sacha Baron-Cohen (aka Ali G) as a party-loving lemur who performs an amusing rendition of “I like to move it, move it”.

The main problem is that the film bungles its emotional climax, partly because we don’t really care about the main characters (the whole time they’re on screen you’ll find yourself wondering what the penguins and monkeys are up to), but also because the supposedly dramatic conclusion is rushed and seems like an afterthought.

The Conclusion

That said, it’s never less than watchable – one or two of the gags are very funny, the animation is bright and colourful and undemanding kids probably won’t be disappointed. It’s just that the likes of Toy Story, Shrek and The Incredibles have entitled us to expect more from animated comedies these days.

Film Trailer

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Content updated: 23/10/2019 04:32

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