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Madagascar (U)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two (first half); One (second half)

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 'I Like To Move It Move It' video. Mad Mishaps - lively outtakes from the film. Meet the Wild Cast. See the amazing Tech of Madagascar. Enjoy hours of interactive fun and activities for the whole family. Download DVD ROM printables of your favourite characters. Penguin Cam. Behind the Igloo. Silly Penguin Tricks.

DREAMWORKS' Madagascar is a frustrating affair because it promises so much more than it ultimately delivers.

Like Shark Tale before it, the animated adventure boasts a hugely impressive vocal ensemble, looks terrific and has plenty of amusing moments, but it also runs out of steam way too early and lacks a certain magic.

The film centres on several of the inhabitants of New York's Central Park Zoo - principally, the attention-loving lion, Alex (Ben Stiller) and his friends Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the street-savvy hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer).

When Marty begins to develop a wander lust for a life outside of captivity things start to get wild.

Marty escapes after overhearing a plan by some renegade penguins to tunnel free and is quickly pursued by his companions, who run amok in the Big Apple with hilarious repercussions.

As a result of their breakout, however, the animals are scheduled for transfer to an African game reserve, but find their ship hijacked by the same renegade penguins and end up being cast adrift, before washing up on the Madagascar coastline and having to fend for themselves in the real wild.

It is here that the group ethic is severely challenged, with Marty considering their misfortune to be a good thing, Alex pining for a return to the home comforts of the zoo, and a group of lemurs (led by Sasha Baron Cohen's king) planning to use the island's new guests for their own mischievous ends.

Sadly, it is also the point in the movie where things go astray.

Whereas the first half of the movie is alive with ingenuity, the second begins to feel laboured and over-populated by tedious characters.

 

Baron Cohen (Britain's Ali G) is particularly annoying, hogging too much screen-time and frequently bursting into a song ('I like to move it, move it') that quickly becomes as grating as the Crazy Frog ring tone.

While the quick wit of the early scenes is overtaken by more melodramatic stuff, as Alex begins to view his friends as 'meat' and his primal instincts take hold.

Several of the support characters that contributed to making the first half such a romp are also lost in the mix, with the scene-stealing penguins left out in the cold (almost literally) and the poo-throwing monkeys occupied elsewhere.

Had co-directors, Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell, devoted more time to what worked, the overall effect may not have seemed so uneven.

That said, kids are bound to be amused. The film clocks in at a mere 80-odd minutes and is fast-paced enough to keep them interested.

And in the delightful first half, there is plenty to admire for viewers of all ages - not least in the wonderfully orchestrated escape from the zoo, and the deliciously malevolent penguins (who shamelessly steal all of the best lines and sequences).

There are also some nice in-jokes and some funny nods to other films (such as Planet of the Apes).

Of the performers, Schwimmer provides an engaging presence as a whiny giraffe, while Stiller and Rock develop a nice vocal camaraderie (even if Stiller gets a little too manic late on).

But it's the support players that again leave the lasting impression and who ultimately leave you hankering for more.

Had Madagascar p-p-picked up more of the penguins' and eased up on the lemurs, it may have generated a bigger roar of delight from this particular visitor.

Watch the trailer:
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David Schwimmer interview l Special feature

Ben Stiller interview

Chris Rock interview

Jada Pinkett Smith interview

Director/producer interviews

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