Published May 01, 2005Were you beguiled by The Incredibles and Finding Nemo? Did you find their approaches witty, their execution artful, their narratives stirring and sensitive? Did you think that they raised the bar in digital animation, creating a standard by which other efforts must be judged? Then stay the holy hell away from Madagascar, 'cause it doesn't even come close to being Pixar.
Centring on some rather spoiled animal characters (happy dippy lion Ben Stiller, hypochondriac giraffe David Schwimmer, underwritten hippo Jada Pinkett-Smith), it explores the mishaps that result when zebra Chris Rock gets fed up with the zoo and strikes out on his own; suffice it to say that boring plot machinations strand the quartet on a desert island overrun with lemurs.
But though it gets minor points for exploring the food-chain discrepancies that bedevil most animation (Stiller's lion suddenly discovers meat that isn't handed to him by zookeepers), there isn't another intelligent or entertaining thing about the movie. The torrent of pop-culture references are just signs of laziness, the jokes are strictly for the easily amused, and worst of all the animation has been carried out in the most apathetic manner by people whose imaginations seem consumed with fantasies about lunch break.
There's nothing creative or craftsman-like about the film - a paltry three good jokes and some amusing penguins are all we get for something that's going to look atrociously tacky in about five years (if it doesn't look that way already.) Ali G fans are advised that Sacha Baron Cohen does what he can with the role of a megalomaniac lemur, but that his material is so weak that even super-fans should stay far away, as should anyone else without recalcitrant children and money burning a hole in their pocket. (Dreamworks/Universal)