The kids will love it, as will many adults. The problem with Madagascar is it fails to match the creativity of fellow DreamWorks counterpart Shrek, but it is much better than Shark Tale. Without question, it is nowhere near the level of the superior Pixar creations, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. If Madagascar had been made ten years ago, it would have been a breakthrough in filmmaking. However, animated films of recent years make Madagascar somewhat less appealing. It may seem unfair to compare this movie to those of the past. However, the motion picture industry is a constantly evolving process. The films we watch should reflect this logic. DreamWorks studio’s latest exertion into full length animated features stretches the globe from New York City’s Central Park Zoo, to Madagascar. The story takes shape as Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) witnesses the zoo’s penguins digging an underground escape route with plastic spoons. The penguins then inform Marty that it is unnatural for them to live in such an environment. Consequently, Marty begins to question his own life as a zoo animal.
The next morning, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), the zoo’s main attraction, Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) find that their zebra friend is missing from his pen. When they recall Marty’s desire to escape to the wild, they set out on a journey to find him. This leads to some very funny scenes that extend across Manhattan to places like Times Square. Eventually the four lead characters, along with the penguins and monkeys, are captured by local law enforcement at a subway station. They are then sent in packages on a ship to Kenya.
While aboard the ship the mischievous penguins have already begun developing plans to escape. They abruptly take over the ship from the human captains and steer it toward their preferred destination of Antarctica. This results in the spilling of the heavy crates, which contain the other animals, into the ocean.
Shortly after reaching the island of Madagascar, the animals discover that the place is intrinsically ruled by two types of creatures. The first group is the lemurs, who perform a dance number to a popular song that will undoubtedly be lodged in your brain for days (I can attest to this firsthand). The other creatures are the Fusa, which are strange hyena-like animals with an urge to feed on the lemurs.
Oddly enough, this is where the writers lose track of any sort of rational direction to take the film. For example, the lemurs try to befriend the escaped zoo animals with the soul purpose of using Alex the Lion to scare the Fusa away. Then the story of the friendship between Alex and Marty takes a detour when Alex begins to visualize Marty and the other animals as steak dinners. The obvious reason for this is that Alex is hungry from days of lacking food. However, this turn in events is really a turn for the worse. The joke itself, animals turning into steak dinners through the eyes of Alex, is overused to say the least.
Basically, the story starts to run all over the place without any clear objective. This is evident by the satirical attempts to pay homage to films such as American Beauty, Castaway and Chariots of Fire--to name a few (yes there are many more). Movie have often mocked other movie, but unfortunately this trend has picked up even more momentum over the past ten years or so.
Though the film is titled Madagascar, the best scenes actually take place in New York. In fact, the first 30-45 minutes are quite pleasing. Once the plot is shifted to the island, the film turns into one big mess of mixed plots and a lack of creativity. As mentioned, the animation in Madagascar is well done, especially the scenes in the ocean in which the water looks very authentic. The laughs are quite frequent as well, most involving the penguins and monkeys-- who are absolutely hilarious (the penguins steal the movie). Great though the penguins are, the four main stars are not well developed and are average characters at best.
This is still a very entertaining film, especially near the beginning. I loved the first half of it, but was fairly disappointed with the second half. As an entire body of work, Madagascar falls just short of the target--as well as short on time. Probably, because Director’s Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell realized they were running out of creative material. This DVD has everything you could ask for and more. In fact, maybe it has too much.
I actually saw Madagascar at the theater with my wife and daughter. I remember thinking that the penguins were the most entertaining thing about it and that perhaps a spin-off based solely on them would work quite well. We get a glimpse of this in a short ten minute story called “Christmas Caper.” This is funny in parts, but is actually not as entertaining as I had anticipated. Unfortunately, some of the same jokes are used again leading to creative stagnation.
Now to the other special features. The first is “Mad Mishaps” is a very short rendition of what would happen if some of the animation wasn’t cleaned up and corrected. It shows aspects “like lazy’ eyes in which the eyes of the animals wonder about freely and often away from the characters. Interesting for about a minute and thankfully this is all the longer the segment is.
Four documentary type features really act as the standouts on the DVD. “Meet the Wild Cast” is a character summary with commentary from the voice over actors and filmmakers. This lasts about 7 minutes and 30 seconds and shows the extent of what goes into the process of creating the characters. “Behind the Crates” is a longer 23 minute documentary that depicts the story behind the story. This takes you behind the scenes to the animation and the extensive use of computer involvement in the process. “The Tech of Madagascar” is a shorter 5 minute explanation behind the animation. It differs from “Behind the Crates” in that it goes into greater detail and concentration of the specifics of the animation process. Finally, “Enchanted Island” takes us to the actual island of Madagascar. This is the most interesting of the short documentaries. It acts as a travel/National Geographic style documentary. The animals, scenery, scientific impact of the land, and description of the native people is brought to the forefront. This segment evolves into why the island was chosen as the location for the film and how the animation of the island itself came about.
There is also a gallery of movie stills from the film with scenes from New York, the Ship and Madagascar. Production notes, as well as cast and filmmaker biographies are also provided. As far as the commentary options goes you actually have two options. Either watch the film with director’s comments, or select “Penguin Chat.” This follows the scenes that involve just the penguins and the commentary is through the eyes of the penguins. Pretty funny stuff at times.
There is a special section titled “DreamWorks Kids!” that includes a music video to “I Like to Move It, Move It.” Also inserted here is “Games for Kids.” The best part of this is “Learn to Draw” which takes you very briefly through the steps of drawing the four main characters. I actually did this while taking notes on the DVD and comparatively speaking the drawings turned out decent. The other games are a bit on the silly side and quite pointless. A waste of space if you ask me.
There is almost too much to handle on the DVD, but for people who enjoy special features Madagascar makes for a solid buy. Just remember not to expect anything spectacular as far as the film goes. This one's good, but it's not another classic.
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