Friday, November 18, 2016

Movie #379: Madagascar

Madagascar is an animated film from Dreamworks starring Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andy Richter.

Marty the Zebra (Rock) lives in the New York City Zoo with his friends Gloria the Hippo (Pinkett Smith), Melman the Giraffe (Schwimmer) and Alex the Lion (Stiller). Though he's spoiled and pampered, he dreams of being able to run free in the wild. Through a series of wacky events, he and his friends wind up getting shipped from the zoo to a wildlife preserve in Kenya, but en route four highly capable penguins hijack the boat and they wind up getting dumped in Madagascar.

Surrounded by lemurs (led by the bombastic King Julien, voiced by Baron Cohen), they try to get back to civilization, but they run into problems when the realized that Alex, who is used to getting steak for dinner, still needs to eat...and zebra looks mighty tasty.

This movie falls into the same problem that a lot of DreamWorks movies do, and it's what makes them less successful (from a storytelling perspective) than Pixar: They rely on other movies to make a lot of their jokes. For example: Inside Out contains a few references to other properties ("Forget it, Jake. It's Cloudtown"), but even if you have no idea what they are (as most of the audience doesn't), the movie stands up on its own because the characters are strong, the concept works, and the story gets you invested. Madagascar, meanwhile, while it's not a bad movie, doesn't have the same hooks. It has far too many characters, it relies too much on allusion (Planet of the Apes, Chariots of Fire, for crying out loud).

Now, with that said, the cast has nice chemistry, and they do a good job of conveying that these are city animals, naive and unversed in the ways of Nature Red in Tooth and Claw. The dialog contains a lot of little understated jokes, if you listen (a lot of them from Baron Cohen), and the penguins are a lot of fun to watch.

My Grade: B
Rewatch value: Medium-high, it's pretty mindless, though it does tend to get "I Like to Move It" stuck in your head

Next up: Magic Mike