Madagascar

July 1st, 2005 Film, Film Reviews, Filmink

Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath

Cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer

When Apple Computer chairman Steve Jobs bought a fledgling digital animation studio from George Lucas in the mid 1990s, he was probably much more concerned with innovation on peoples’ desks than on movie screens.

Of course the rest is history, and the name Pixar became synonymous with a brand new genre; latest generation computer animated cartoons with breathtaking visual detail, razor sharp wit in the script and characters that register on our cultural consciousness almost by default.

A war for box office profits would inevitably follow, and in the ensuing battles, three major studios (Fox, Dreamworks and Pixar) have given us some of the most pleasurable few hours we’ve spent watching cartoons since Saturday mornings with Bugs Bunny.

All three studios seem to have something of a house style. Dreamworks’ is to fill the script with pop culture and movie references and blur the line between the real world and their own. Thanks to Shrek, for example, there’s finally consensus on just what an ogre looks like. And Madagascar dances (and occasionally draws) the slender line about how different species communicate.

Another Dreamworks hallmark is extremely witty (at times quite cutting) screenwriting, and they’ve excelled themselves again. Extremely funny jokes both visual and spoken merge seamlessly with the delight at watching animals behave like people.

Zebra Marty (Rock) gets a little jungle fever when a group of paramilitary penguins (who effortlessly steal the show) intend to break out of New York’s Central Park Zoo. His friends Alex the lion (Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Pinkett-Smith) and Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (Schwimmer) think he’s nuts — after all, they live like royalty.

But that night, Marty busts out anyway, determined to see the wild. His friends make off after him, and being four wild animals loose in New York, the furthest they make it from the zoo is the train station.

With the foursome on a ship bound for Africa their reward — all fighting over whose fault it is — the penguins take over in one of the film’s funniest scenes. Disaster strikes and the hapless friends find themselves washed up ashore on the titular island.

Populated by ferocious hunting dogs and the tribe of crazy, party-mad lemurs who inhabit the land, Madagascar is not New York. And as the manic lemur king Julian (Cohen) plots to use their presence to protect his tribe, Alex starts indeed to take to the wild, and not in a way any of them expect or like.


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