Along time ago, it became obvious to me that Dreamworks Animation was carrying on a feud with Disney (and therefore Pixar.) Every time Pixar announced a film, Dreamworks announced a similarly themed movie. And the Pixar film was always better. So I started saving my money and skipping the Dreamworks film.
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I say all that to explain why I am just now watching Madagascar. Actually, I wouldn't have even watched it now if it weren't for the sequel coming soon. The previews were actually making that movie look funny. So I decided it was time to watch the original. Fortunately, I got it from my library so all I wasted was my time.
Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) is having a midlife crisis. He's tired of life in the Central Park Zoo and wants to see what life is like in the wild. When he escapes, his three friends try to chase him down and bring him back. And while Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) do catch up with him, it doesn't turn out quite as planned. Instead, all four of them find themselves headed to Africa. Will they survive when they get there?
Let's start with what does work. There are lots of blink and you miss them references to other movies. While I didn't know what all of them were, I enjoyed the ones I did catch. I especially loved the "Born Free" spoof that opened the movie and the Spalding volleyball.
Then there are the penguins. Four commando penguins are attempting to leave the zoo and return to Antarctica. They are the best thing in the movie. I found their lines funny. Unfortunately, they aren't in nearly enough of the movie.
So what doesn't work? Just about everything else.
Let's start with the plot. It is paper thin and predictable. Honestly, they could have fit most of it into 45 minutes. And they didn't even pad it with jokes. They just pad it with padding.
While the characters are stock characters, there was still potential there for plenty of humor. Heck, I expected lots of jokes from Melman when they broke free. See, the giraffe is a hypochondriac. I was seeing so many jokes as he encounters nature for the first time. And we got one, which was done better during the third season of Monk. The other characters didn't fare any better.
If you are familiar with the actors in the voice cast, you can easily recognize their voices here. For the most part, that didn't bother me. The one exception was David Schwimmer. Every time Melman opened his mouth, I'd start looking around for Ross from Friends. That didn't help me get into the movie in the slightest.
Finally, there's the animation. Computer animation is a truly amazing art form that allows the artists to create super realistic worlds. Such is not the case here. It's supposed to appear stylized and cartoon like. And as such, it's certainly acceptable. But it really could have been better.
At the start of the review, I mentioned the Disney/Dreamworks rivalry. Disney was indeed working on an extremely similar movie. The Wild was released with little fanfare a few months after Madagascar came out. For my money, it is the far superior film. I've laughed so hard every time I've seen it.
So, will I see the upcoming sequel to Madagascar? I might, but only if I hear good things about it. Even then, I doubt I'll rush out to see it. This one just wasn't entertaining enough to make me want to sit through another one.
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