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Overall Rating

Awesome: 15.15%
Worth A Look30.3%
Just Average: 23.48%
Pretty Crappy: 22.73%
Sucks: 8.33%

10 reviews, 72 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"You've got to love a lion who doesn't know what it means to be a lion."
4 stars

For some reason, the folks who make movies for kids seem to think they need a bunch of secondary characters. The cynical will claim that this is done for the sole purpose of selling more tie-in merchandise, and they've probably got a point. There's no particular need for the hippo or the giraffe in Madagascar, for instance, and neither likely will be anybody's favorite character, but neither actually takes anything away from the movie, which winds up pretty entertaining as a whole.

I won't lie and say it's as good as some of DreamWorks' previous animated features. It's closer in tone to the likes of SharkTale than Antz; the early indications that DreamWorks would grow into a more sophisticated, adult-oriented animation studio have pretty much been dashed (with the exception of their occasional anime acquisitions). A quick look at the character designs for this movie will tell anybody watching everything it needs to know about the intended target audience. This is a movie for kids, no matter how many adult-oriented pop-culture references or celebrity voices the filmmakers include.

That said, the filmmakers do a pretty good job catering to the kids without insulting the parents. The only time they mention a character's age is Marty the Zebra's tenth birthday party, so even if he's a full-grown zebra with adult Chris Rock's voice, the kids still identify with him. The animals are all rather naive and innocent, and their first trip outside the zoo walls feels not like running away, but like kids sneaking out for innocent adventure. Of course, the rest of New York doesn't see a bunch of zoo animals walking around the city as innocent - especially the lion - so they're tranquilized, put on a boat, and shipped back home. When the penguins try to hijack the ship to reach Antartica, four of the animals - Marty, Alex the Lion (voice of Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (voice of Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (voice of David Schwimmer) wind up marooned on the island of Madagascar, where the encounter a tribe of lemurs.

Madagascar, I figure, rises and falls on what how people like Stiller's Alex. Me, I liked him. It's Stiller in his overenthusiastic, maybe not-exactly-bright mode, but it fits the character perfectly. He makes Alex a big, overgrown man-child personality, physically adult but mentally still a cub, and when he's caught trying to take a bite out of one of his friends, his "no, I'm not" is pure hopeful five-year-old denial. In fact, it's even more innocent than that five year-old who doesn't realize his mother won't buy his fibs just because she loves him; he really doesn't understand how the situation came about. He's a lion with no conception that people and other animals are afraid of lions, or that the steaks he loves so much were once alive. When he finally gets hungry enough that his predatory instincts finally kick in, it's horrifying to him. He's just started learning how to be a lion, and liking it; does it have to include this?

None of the other characters have so meaty a storyline, if you'll pardon the pun. Marty's story is sort of the inverse - after yearning to see the world outside the Central Park Zoo, he finds that the wild is as filled with danger as it is wide open spaces - and if Melman or Gloria really grows or changes or does anything other than provide peer pressure to Alex, I'm not sure what it is. Most of the other characters are there for comic relief or giving the plot the occasional nudge - the lemurs' King Julian (voice of Sacha Baron Cohen) is a daffy type who'll amuse the kids, while his advisor Maurice (voice of Cedric the Entertainer) is stuck providing the voice of reason. Many of the funniest moments come from the quartet of determined penguins - especially hard-bitten leader Skipper (voiced by co-director Tom McGrath) - because the filmmakers manage to choose their moments well, milking comedy out of them being both ineffectual and surprisingly able (it works because they don't go back and forth; after showing them as successful, the movie doesn't try to get laughs out of them screwing up).

The visual presentation of this film is deceptively simple, as it emphasizes a simple, but charming, design over elaborately-rendered complexity. There are some detailed environments, but for the most part, bright colors and shapes that remain basic without looking abstract. The look is kind of a simplified Little Golden Book, especially with Gloria's roundness or Alex's flat, spiky mane. The penguins are beady-eyed little fellows, who almost look incongruous moving like penguins. They sound too tough to be forced to waddle, or slide on their bellies. The beach is deliberately sparse, compared to the busy (but not overwhelming) New York City "sets". I admit, I wondered where the light sources were in a sequence where we're seeing the animals through cutaways in their shipping boxes, but kids probably won't.

Like a lot of recent animated movies (especially from DreamWorks), this one dates itself more than it perhaps should. A reference to Cast Away already has a few whiskers on it, and who knows whether "I Like to Move It, Move It" will come across as a fun, upbeat song to use or as just an early-aughts thing in a few years. A bit more of a concern, perhaps, is how the movie glosses over the idea of whether zoos are good things or not; I got kind of uncomfortable when a newscaster used the phrase "animal rights whackos" - a movie for kids should probably be a little more even-handed.

But, then, kids are smarter than we often give them credit for; they may just filter that out and look down their noses at things I counted as clever. I enjoyed "Madagascar", though, and from the noise around me, the kids did too.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12362&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/20/05 21:54:19
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User Comments

12/18/09 Jeff Wilder Funny in spots. But humor is of the cheap variety. 3 stars
1/14/09 Anonymous. cute and forgetable, not one of the better animated movies. 3 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Great Kids Film! 5 stars
3/27/08 sweeta-kt Sorry, but what is kimerikas? Jane. 1 stars
10/05/07 Marty It was super!, I really liked marty the zebra!! 5 stars
6/20/07 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
5/18/07 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
11/03/06 Tony Myers Why why WHY are studios like DreamWorks and Disney insisting that CGI is "the big thing"? 1 stars
7/28/06 Generic User Name People are too blinded by their own complaining to see some of the real meanings. Loved it. 5 stars
7/22/06 PM it's a great movie!!!! not only for kids. AWESOME!!! 5 stars
7/19/06 David Cohen I've seen enough "hip" comedies to last me for life, now can we please see some funny ones? 2 stars
6/19/06 Sarah it was aweosme.. the little small thing with big eyes was soo CUTE!!! 5 stars
6/04/06 mary terrible 1 stars
4/22/06 Poopy Woopy A Funny very worth while 4 stars
4/14/06 Joe Schmoe cOtToN-eYeD Joe Awesome!!!!!! 5 stars
4/02/06 JRE penguins are cool but the rest is the stupidest most unfunny plot ever 2 stars
1/08/06 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
12/28/05 fargat King Jullian, is all they've got! i like to move it move it! 3 stars
12/16/05 Ala'a Haddad The movie's idea is new and really funny and not only for kids 4 stars
11/21/05 J.D. Pittman III Animation got on my nerves and alex isn't a very good mean lion. PENGUINS! 3 stars
11/20/05 tatum Your kids will love the "American Beauty" reference!? 4 stars
10/15/05 Japanamie Cool film, loved the penguins. 3 stars
9/30/05 laura peñaloza 1 stars
9/13/05 bbbr funny 4 stars
8/25/05 Quigley too short with a weak ending, but man, it was pretty funny. I like to move it move it! 4 stars
8/14/05 Frenzy funny 4 stars
8/10/05 LopsyBunny Totally great. What are these people talking about saying it's bad? It's hilarios! 5 stars
8/09/05 Erica Bobifacio Greatest movie ever!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/28/05 The Man With No Name funny, but doesn't live up to "shrek" or "finding nemo" 3 stars
7/26/05 Willam Marley Not on par with Shrek but gets the target audience's attention 4 stars
7/17/05 bullit16 Had its moments. Cute for kids. 4 stars
7/13/05 Ronald Newbold What a hoot! 4 stars
7/10/05 Brooke I thought it was great especially the lemurs 5 stars
7/10/05 Peteca It's good if you don't have anything else to watch / Buena solo para pasar el rato 3 stars
7/07/05 Uncle Salty it puts the ZZZZZZZZZ in Zoo 1 stars
7/07/05 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
6/29/05 John Ay Okay for the kids, slow for adults. 3 stars
6/27/05 ashley trosclair it was freakin awesome and it was also hilarious!!!!! 5 stars
6/27/05 isabella great movie for kids and teens parents need to live a little happyer to get the movie 5 stars
6/25/05 ryan I liked the characters, the song, and the quote " I like to move it". 4 stars
6/24/05 Samantha Not on same level as Shrek but still funny. Ending annoyingly inconclusive. 4 stars
6/24/05 Njakalahy Excellent summer movie. Looking forward to Madagascar 2. 5 stars
6/23/05 andrew thomson great family movie 4 stars
6/23/05 azpinoy Better than expected, loved the penguins! 4 stars
6/18/05 Quigley definitely not shrek 2 or the incredibles, but had it's laughs. king julien rocks! 4 stars
6/14/05 Kayla AWESOME!! 5 stars
6/12/05 Steven Awesome Movie!!! 4 stars
6/12/05 Holly I LOVE the baby lemur, it's soo cute!!! 5 stars
6/12/05 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
6/10/05 katelyn I loved It (I love king Julian!) 5 stars
6/07/05 Darcy ok for family but not a classic 3 stars
6/05/05 Naka It's, well, total crap. 1 stars
6/04/05 Brian the uninspired dreamworks crapfest rolls on 1 stars
6/03/05 Abigail This was one of the best movies I've ever seen! 5 stars! I only wish they had pictures of t 5 stars
6/02/05 Quigley had some pretty hilarious scenes, but it felt too forced for its own good. 4 stars
5/31/05 Robbie my 2 year old and myself(33) enjoyed alot 4 stars
5/31/05 Titus It ain't pixar, but it was definitely fun, and had some moments of greatness. 4 stars
5/31/05 Ham Sandwich These filmmakers don't understand kids. Kids want violence. 1 stars
5/31/05 Gary Pretty Weak!!!!!! 2 stars
5/30/05 mary todd lincoln save your money!!!! 2 stars
5/30/05 yuk double yuk 1 stars
5/27/05 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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