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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.15%
Worth A Look30.3%
Average: 23.48%
Pretty Bad: 22.73%
Total Crap: 8.33%

10 reviews, 72 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"A lame misfire, but one that will amuse children (which isn't very hard)."
3 stars

I will tell you up front that the kids who were in the audience when I saw "Madagascar" seemed to enjoy it, and maybe that's all you need to know. But if you're interested in knowing what's wrong with the movie, and why it's a soulless, ill-conceived, reference-laden post-"Shrek" free-for-all, read on.

Set in the Central Park Zoo, "Madagascar" starts out being the story of the zebra, Marty (voice of Chris Rock), who on his 10th birthday starts to wonder what it's like out in the "wild," which he either never experienced or doesn't remember. His zoo pals -- confident lion Alex (Ben Stiller), hypochondriac giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and non-descript hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) -- are not nearly as introspective. They love their gig at the zoo and think the penguins, who have been plotting an escape, are psychotic.

Marty wants to get back to his roots, though, and one night escapes from the zoo and emerges at Grand Central Station, hoping to catch a train to Connecticut, where he has heard there is some wild to be found. (If rich Protestants count as "wild," then I guess he's in luck.) The other animals bust out to stop him from embarking on this mad endeavor, and soon they are all recaptured, tranquilized, and put in crates bound for a wildlife preserve in Kenya. It is hinted that the humans and their news media took the animals' escape to mean they were unhappy at the zoo, and the animal-rights activists convinced the zoo to release them.

Whatever. The important thing is, through a series of events that defy even cartoon logic, the four principals wind up on the island of Madagascar -- the true wild, with no people anywhere -- and discover they are ill-equipped to deal with it. The local lemurs, led by King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his doubtful sidekick Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer), welcome them and share a disturbing bit of information: In the jungle, animals don't eat food given to them by zookeepers. They eat EACH OTHER.

Then the film becomes Alex's story, as he starts to feel his primal instincts and is worried he will devour his friends. Can he return to the Central Park Zoo? Is that what Marty, Melman and Gloria want? How will they fend for themselves in the wild?

The movie's first flaw is that it is unfocused, introducing two protagonists, Marty and Alex, and then inadequately covering either of them. They are not hero and sidekick; they are dual heroes, both important but both neglected by Mark Burton and Billy Frolick's joke-heavy, unstructured screenplay.

Next is the movie's failure to create a consistent world. We have animals who know how telephones work, can read newspapers and train schedules, can operate an ocean freighter -- but don't know that Alex's nightly steak dinners are made out of other animals? You have two choices in a movie like his. Either the animals can behave strictly like animals do when they are in the human world (as in "Finding Nemo"), or they can be anthropomorphized and develop human skills (as in Bugs Bunny cartoons). "Madagascar" tries to have it both ways, making them savvy one minute and ignorant the next, depending on the needs of the story.

But the film's greatest detriment is its lack of a point. It introduces all these great existential dilemmas -- Can I eat a fellow animal? What is my true nature? -- and then weasels out of giving any real resolution to them. (My apologies to any weasels who may be reading this.)

Alex's solution for helping the lemurs is to scare off the hyenas who feed on them. But now what are the lemurs supposed to eat? Is it that we don't care, as long as it's not the cute lemurs? Is eating an animal only wrong if it's one with an adorable character voice? Is being a carnivore inherently bad? Apparently not, because Alex still is one. So what's he going to eat? Well, the penguins introduce him to fish. So is THAT the point? That meat-eating is evil, but fish don't count as meat? How is Alex going to get fish on a regular basis? Are the penguins going to catch it for him?

And what about Marty's desire to roam free in the wild? Were the animals better off in the zoo? Maybe they were, since they've been domesticated and can't cut it on their own. But do they realize that now? How would they return to New York anyway, with the freighter they traveled on now out of fuel?

I wanted to enjoy the film. I really did. I overlooked the fact that Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer are essentially the same person and should not be cast in the same film. And I laughed a number of times, particularly in the first act, with the loony escape sequence, and the erudite monkeys who speak of flinging poo at Tom Wolfe, and the melodramatic penguins who talk like characters from an espionage caper. But once "Madagascar" arrives on its titular island, the story falls apart. It writes itself into more corners than it can write its way out of, hoping that if it throws enough pop-cultural references at us -- "Cast Away," "Planet of the Apes," etc. -- we won't notice how frantically it's trying to figure out what to do.

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originally posted: 05/27/05 15:48:03
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User Comments

12/19/09 Jeff Wilder Funny in spots. But humor is of the cheap variety. 3 stars
1/15/09 Anonymous. cute and forgetable, not one of the better animated movies. 3 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 5 stars
3/28/08 sweeta-kt Sorry, but what is kimerikas? Jane. 1 stars
10/06/07 Marty It was super!, I really liked marty the zebra!! 5 stars
6/21/07 Dark Enchantress i love this movie! I love the head lemur as well. 5 stars
5/28/07 fools♫gold Has anyone who rates this 5 stars seen a single cartoon on television? 2 stars
5/19/07 APosterTest Good site, thanks! APosterTest 2 stars
2/08/07 Matt Starts off all right but goes clean off the rails around half way through. 3 stars
11/04/06 Tony Myers Why why WHY are studios like DreamWorks and Disney insisting that CGI is "the big thing"? 1 stars
7/29/06 Generic User Name People are too blinded by their own complaining to see some of the real meanings. Loved it. 5 stars
7/23/06 PM it's a great movie!!!! not only for kids. AWESOME!!! 5 stars
7/20/06 David Cohen I've seen enough "hip" comedies to last me for life, now can we please see some funny ones? 2 stars
6/20/06 Sarah it was aweosme.. the little small thing with big eyes was soo CUTE!!! 5 stars
6/05/06 mary terrible 1 stars
4/22/06 Poopy Woopy A Funny very worth while 4 stars
4/15/06 Joe Schmoe cOtToN-eYeD Joe Awesome!!!!!! 5 stars
4/03/06 JRE penguins are cool but the rest is the stupidest most unfunny plot ever 2 stars
1/09/06 Bad Critic Good animation, but the rest is just so so. 3 stars
1/06/06 JM Synth Dreamworks score a winner after the dull "Shark Tale", and the middiling "Shrek 2" 5 stars
12/29/05 fargat King Jullian, is all they've got! i like to move it move it! 3 stars
12/17/05 Ala'a Haddad The movie's idea is new and really funny and not only for kids 4 stars
11/22/05 J.D. Pittman III Animation got on my nerves and alex isn't a very good mean lion. PENGUINS! 3 stars
11/21/05 tatum Your kids will love the "American Beauty" reference!? 4 stars
10/16/05 Japanamie Cool film, loved the penguins. 3 stars
9/30/05 laura peñaloza 1 stars
9/13/05 bbbr funny 4 stars
8/26/05 Quigley too short with a weak ending, but man, it was pretty funny. I like to move it move it! 4 stars
8/15/05 Frenzy funny 4 stars
8/11/05 LopsyBunny Totally great. What are these people talking about saying it's bad? It's hilarios! 5 stars
8/10/05 Erica Bobifacio Greatest movie ever!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/29/05 The Man With No Name funny, but doesn't live up to "shrek" or "finding nemo" 3 stars
7/27/05 Willam Marley Not on par with Shrek but gets the target audience's attention 4 stars
7/18/05 bullit16 Had its moments. Cute for kids. 4 stars
7/14/05 Ronald Newbold What a hoot! 4 stars
7/11/05 Brooke I thought it was great especially the lemurs 5 stars
7/11/05 Peteca It's good if you don't have anything else to watch / Buena solo para pasar el rato 3 stars
7/08/05 Uncle Salty it puts the ZZZZZZZZZ in Zoo 1 stars
7/08/05 Kendra Amorson i loved it, i laghted, cryed, adn smiled 5 stars
7/05/05 helen yost this was an awsomely funny flick that would warm any cold kids heart especially the lemurs 4 stars
7/03/05 Natalia i though it waz kool 5 stars
7/01/05 Jack Farnsworth Not the best movie but kicks Robots ass! 4 stars
6/30/05 John Ay Okay for the kids, slow for adults. 3 stars
6/28/05 ashley trosclair it was freakin awesome and it was also hilarious!!!!! 5 stars
6/28/05 isabella great movie for kids and teens parents need to live a little happyer to get the movie 5 stars
6/26/05 ryan I liked the characters, the song, and the quote " I like to move it". 4 stars
6/25/05 Samantha Not on same level as Shrek but still funny. Ending annoyingly inconclusive. 4 stars
6/25/05 Njakalahy Excellent summer movie. Looking forward to Madagascar 2. 5 stars
6/24/05 andrew thomson great family movie 4 stars
6/23/05 azpinoy Better than expected, loved the penguins! 4 stars
6/19/05 Quigley definitely not shrek 2 or the incredibles, but had it's laughs. king julien rocks! 4 stars
6/15/05 Kayla AWESOME!! 5 stars
6/13/05 Steven Awesome Movie!!! 4 stars
6/13/05 Holly I LOVE the baby lemur, it's soo cute!!! 5 stars
6/13/05 Jean I thought it was a cute childrens movie 4 stars
6/11/05 KingNeutron AVOID, AVOID - these people are obviously trying **WAY** too hard (and failing) to be funny 1 stars
6/11/05 katelyn I loved It (I love king Julian!) 5 stars
6/07/05 Darcy ok for family but not a classic 3 stars
6/06/05 Naka It's, well, total crap. 1 stars
6/05/05 Brian the uninspired dreamworks crapfest rolls on 1 stars
6/04/05 Abigail This was one of the best movies I've ever seen! 5 stars! I only wish they had pictures of t 5 stars
6/03/05 Quigley had some pretty hilarious scenes, but it felt too forced for its own good. 4 stars
6/01/05 Robbie my 2 year old and myself(33) enjoyed alot 4 stars
6/01/05 Titus It ain't pixar, but it was definitely fun, and had some moments of greatness. 4 stars
6/01/05 Ham Sandwich These filmmakers don't understand kids. Kids want violence. 1 stars
5/31/05 Gary Pretty Weak!!!!!! 2 stars
5/31/05 mary todd lincoln save your money!!!! 2 stars
5/30/05 yuk double yuk 1 stars
5/28/05 HL The penguins could not save this movie. 3 stars
5/27/05 Christy Schultz The first ten minutes are kind of slow..but it gets pretty funny after that. Penguins rule. 4 stars
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  27-May-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 15-Nov-2005



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