a critiQal film review Madagascar (2005)

Plot: Marty the Zebra (Rock), Alex the Lion (Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Pinkett Smith) and Mlman the Giraffe (Schwimmer) have it all as star attractions at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. Despite all that, Marty wonders what life would be like "in the wild". His wish comes true, as a series of events leaves the 4 friends stranded on the island of Madagascar, without a human in sight.

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  • ...provides a solid hour and a half of animated fun for the whole family

After the smash successes of Shrek (2001), Shrek 2 (2004) and Shark Tale, Dreamworks is riding a computer-generated animation high in box office receipts lately. Being a fan of those films ourselves, we couldn’t wait to check out Dreamworks latest foray into computer animation: Madagascar. With the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and neurotic “Friends” co-star David Schiwmmer, it looked to be a hit right out of the box.

Unfortunately, due to a few money restraints this summer, we didn’t have a chance to check it out on the big screen, but waited anxiously for Madagascar to make it’s way to DVD. Finally that day arrived, and we rushed to pick it up – only to find out that Blockbuster® had already run out of copies. Trying again today, we were delighted to discover that a few copies had been returned. We quickly snatched one up, rushed home, and immediately sat down to watch the film.

But, with all this anticipation, would Madagascar stand a chance of living up to what we were expecting, or has Dreamworks already hit it’s peak in the world of animation?

Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer are all perfectly voice-cast in Madagascar. Stiller’s lion is an egotistical “king” of the zoo, and has an easy rapport with Rock’s positive-outlook zebra. Pinkett Smith’s tough-as-nails hippo and Schwimmer’s hypochondriac giraffe back up these two in funny scene after funny scene. The four voices work in harmony, blending together to create the funniest animated quartet in memory. Cedric the Entertainer and Andy Richter also lend their voices to the film, leading a great supporting cast to back up the 4 stars of the film.

But what would voices be in Madagascar without great animation backing them up? Thankfully, Dreamworks has done it again in that department, bringing the world of these animals to brilliant life in a style all their own. Whereas Pixar always aims to make things as realistic as possible, Dreamworks has carved their own niche by concentrating on keeping their characters firmly in the realm of cartoons, without trying to breathe too much reality into them. It’s great to see Dreamworks forging their own path, rather than just playing follow-up to Pixar.

This cartoon-y style is a welcome refreshment, and tends to rule against labeling Dreamworks as just a wannabe Pixar. Dreamworks also continues it’s hilarious trend of spoofing classic scenes from other films. In Madagascar, these range from Disney’s The Lion King (1994) to American Beauty. These, along with a great story concept, help the actors in creating a very memorable film.

The story in Madagascar focuses on 4 zoo animals who suddenly find themselves in the wild for the first time in their lives. From an animal rights activist standpoint, this could have easily turned into a much darker film about the fight for survival for animals who have been so tamed by humans they have no jungle-sense left at all. Instead, Madagascar focuses on the fact that zebras and lions are natural enemies in the wild, and how two friends cope with this surprising fact. Of course, since this film is aimed at a family-friendly audience, they easily accomplish the impossible – and manage to throw in a lot of laughs along the way.

Dreamworks has done it again. Madagascar turns out to be a fresh and funny animated film, with great character voices and animation. While not quite up to the comedic genius of the Shrek (2001) films, Madagascar does provide a great hour and a half of animated fun for the whole family. Throw in DVD extras like the short film “Christmas Caper”, and this film shoots right to the top of our DVD must-own list.

If you’re a fan of Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks animation, you shouldn’t miss Madagascar.


  1. oh well, chris rock is really funny. i like his corny jokes and stuff. ~`-

  2. just the mere look of Chris Rock would give you laughs already .

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