Running Time: 80 minutes.
Rated: Rated G.
Marty the Zebra (Rock) lives at Manhattan's Central Park Zoo. Along with his friends Alex the Lion (Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (Schwimmer), he was born at the zoo. Unlike his friends, Marty wants to experience life in the wild. One night he breaks out of the zoo in an attempt to get to what he understands is the wild side - Connecticut. Alex, Melman and Gloria go after him and track him down at Central Station; they are all captured and sent back to the zoo. Animal activists take up their cause, and against Alex, Melman and Gloria's will, are shipped with Marty to Africa. They wind up in Madagascar. Life in the wild is not what Marty thought it would be, or what the other three wanted, so they plot and plan a return to the cushy confines of their zoo in Manhattan.
Shrek, Finding Nemo and Shrek 2 showed us that G rated animation films can be as much fun for adults as they can be for the kids. Made by the same company who produced the Shrek films, Madagascar tries to be Finding Nemo on land in Africa, but it doesn't quite get there.
There are many things to commend it. The fusion of animated characters into the New York scenes is well executed. The voices are all well done, and at only 80 minutes, this colourful film moves along a brisk pace. Like the Shrek films there are scores of intertextual references in the script, visually and on the sound track - Born Free, Chariots of Fire, Survivor, The Lion King, National Geographic nature documentaries and Good Morning Vietnam all figure, and that's just to name a few.
Where Madagascar does not match the other films is the strength of the story. It is a nice idea having zoo animals return to their ancestor's roots, only to hate it and want to go back to what is their zoological home. The problem is that we need at least one more dramatic development in the story to sustain our interest, and a greater threat to the heroes to peak our emotions. Finding Nemo brilliantly found the formula for both. It takes too long for our hapless quartet to get to Madagascar and then it all falls a bit flat.
Madagascar remains an enjoyable family film well worth seeing; it's only that the other films in this genre have set the bar so high.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.