Aug 27, 2010

[Movies] Madagascar (2005)

MadagascarIt's my birthday tomorrow, and I thought that it might be fun to review a movie that I really liked. To refine that idea further, I figured it would be more interesting to revisit a movie that I didn't expect that I'd enjoy but instead did.

In the end, I noticed this sitting on the shelves given we had only recently purchased a copy of this movie. So that really helped me figure out today's review subject. Plus it has humorous penguins in it. And by humorous, I mean very, very, very funny.

This movie initially repulsed me because of the stars involved, plus I've sort of been a Pixar purist ever since they first started releasing feature-length movies. Sure, Shrek really worked but this was a first venture into a completely new franchise. And you know how hard it is to try something new. But this pleasantly turned out into a rather pleasant experiment and a good follow-up movie for DreamWorks Animation.

Cover of "Madagascar (Full Screen Edition...Cover of Madagascar (Full Screen Edition)Madagascar is the fifth CGI-animated movie released by DreamWorks Animation and at the time it was the one that got closest to the Shrek films in terms of gross revenue.

The movie focuses around the animals of the Central Park Zoo in New York and their generally happy lives. It's Marty (Chris Rock) the Zebra's birthday but he's starting to feel the confinement and the urge to roam free is definitely building. With the help of the penguins (WHO ARE ADORABLE!), he manages to get out and his friends Alex (Ben Stiller) the lion, Melman (David Schwimmer) the giraffe and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) the hippo try to follow him with the penguins Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (John DiMaggio) and Private (Christopher Knights) also making their escape.

The animals are eventually captured in order to protect the public and animal-rights activists get them shipped to Kenya for their own safety. However the (WONDERFULLY ADORABLE) penguins manage to escape and miraculously take over the ship. Their inability to fully control it though leads to the crates containing the other animals getting knocked off the ship. The four eventually float towards Madagascar and there try to rediscover their roots as animals in the wild.

For some reason, Ben Stiller seems a lot funnier to me as a voice talent for a CGI lion as opposed to his live-action movies. Seriously. I know I may be biased in this regard, but he just doesn't do it for me, at least in terms of his more recent movies. But in this film, he totally worked. Plus it wasn't so bad to have Chris Rock as a CGI zebra to boot. I don't think I do well with his live-action movies as well. So for a movie to make these two actors that I don't particularly like come across as funny to me, well, that's an achievement.

But of course the big success is really due to those adorable penguins. This is probably what helped lock in my love for CGI penguins in particular, something that Happy Feet would eventually capitalize on. But you have to admit, they were designed to be successful across age brackets. Plus I feel they worked even better for geekier audiences given how they were obviously a humorous homage to caper films and old-style movie criminals. Plus the unique way they were animated really worked too.

The overall story was your usual mix of good comedy, a quick lesson for all the kids and ridiculous dance sequences that don't fit anywhere else. This has pretty much become a tradition across DreamWorks movies for some reason - something you have to do for the kids I suppose. And people who like old songs performed by CGI animals and other such charactersw.

And that's all that matter for now, right?

Plus penguins.

Madagascar is a great example of DreamWorks certainly putting up a good fight for Pixar. It gets 4 dancing lemurs out of a possible 5.

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