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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 Erik Childress

"Lions and Zebras and Hippos, Oh My Does It Suck"
2 stars

With all the pro-animal groups and classically moralistic lessons in pet cinema, never did I ever expect to see a film to take the bold approach of suggesting that animals are better off in captivity than they are in the wild. This may be true for certain species, particularly those of the endangered variety, but try selling that to critics of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo which seems to lose animals at the frequency of the next scheduled daily news report. I’m not about to take any high ground for one stance or the other since it’s the least of Madagascar’s problems. I thought I had seen the bottom with last year’s celebrity-voice driven and uninspired Shark Tale. Dreamworks Animation has managed to one-down themselves with an even flatter and weaker piece of family entertainment.

Marty the Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) believes there’s a greater life for him outside the walls of the Central Park Zoo. Basically he’s bored and has reached a literal mid-life crisis. His best friend, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) is the star attraction of the zoo and enjoys the daily steak platters he’s served. What in the wild could possibly be more appealing?

Marty does manage to escape although the details of which, could have been fun, are left to our own imagination. I suppose somebody watching it should have one. In the rescue attempt by Alex and pals, Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and hypochondriac Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), the animals are captured and shipped off only to be cast off due to some rascally penguins. The four friends wash up on the shore of an island populated mainly by a colony of lemurs led by Julian (Ali G’s Sacha Baron Cohen providing a few needed chuckles) and Maurice (the worn-out-his-welcome Cedric the Entertainer) who’s welcoming committee dancing to Shaggy’s “I like to move it move it” is even more embarrassing than the dated “Livin La Vida Loca” number at the end of Shrek 2.

What’s shocking and, frankly, off-putting about Madagascar is how unappealing its heroes actually are. Chris Rock is desperately trying to pull off his mentor's (Eddie Murphy) feat in the Shrek movies as the fast-talking, uber-hip shizzle-fizzle quadraped, but is as painfully unfunny as any of the human characters he plays. Stiller’s Lion moves with all the grace of a perpetual jump cut, even if his hair is perfect. The conceit that the animals have their own language and can only be heard by humans in the growls and grunts we’re familiar with is an old notion. But we accept it unconditionally since it doesn’t seem far-fetched. But it fails when the animals don’t behave like they would in front of the thousands of zoo patrons. Lions going into posing mode and zebras and hippos walking on their hind legs explode the illusion into a thousand pieces. Suspension of disbelief aside, think about the worlds of Toy Story and Finding Nemo and how we were able to sustain the simplest of story points without blinking and able to concentrate instead on the characters and their adventures.

This is not the world of fairy tales and there should be graver circumstances, if not more imaginative. The central conflict for them doesn’t even manifest until well into the second act. There are no humans to contend with. The villains should be a walk in the park for any lion, no matter how preening. And Alex’s internal conflict with coming out of the closet as a wild beast and not a show pony is accentuated with jokes of licking and butt-biting. Many of the tell-tale jokes designed to cater to adult audiences, including lame-o references to Cast Away and Planet of the Apes, will produce more groans than knowing smiles. But when all else fails, you can always kick the lion in the crotch again. Three times by my count.

Despite it being a pretty fluently laughless trek for 85 minutes, there is a bright spot that keeps it from being a total shipwreck. Aside from a promising signing monkey and his translator, who are so forgotten about their final lines can’t even be heard in the background, those rascally penguins mentioned take over the movie whenever they are on screen, which is for a total of about 12 minutes. Andy Richter provides a hysterical turn as the leader Mort and induces a spark of life and seditiousness in every reading. Filmmakers Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath should have taken a cue from Disney’s Emperor’s New Groove which shut down and retooled itself once it discovered what worked. Mort and his gang of penguins are clearly the stars of this film and it’s hard not to applaud their every appearance. In its current state, Madagascar is very much like the birds’ trip to their native Antarctica. There they are, the only bits of color in an otherwise dead white and cold landscape, looking around at each other until one of them finally utters, “Well, this sucks.”

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originally posted: 05/27/05 14:09:23
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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 peńaloza 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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