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"There's a scene that involves one of the characters saying 'underpants!' that gets a huge roar of laughter from the kids.  That doesn't play as well with adult audiences, unless they're at a Pauly Shore movie.."










The Masked Reviewer

Do you like to move it-move it?

The Masked Reviewer likes to move it-move it.

Madagascar is the latest computer animated film from Dreamworks, the makers of Shrek.  It features a bunch of cute animals, voiced by celebrities. 

Often, the Masked Reviewer doesn't like to talk about who did what voice, since some people consider that a spoiler -- they want to guess who did the voices in the film.  So, we'll start off just talking about general things and get into the voices later, but you'll be warned before any names are dropped.

The premise of the film is very Disneyesque.  Cute and carefree animals, overcoming some personal problems and enormous obstacles in the name of friendship and fun.  Like the Shrek movies, it's intended to be fun for both kids and adults, though Madagascar leans a bit more toward the kids.  There's a scene that involves one of the characters saying "underpants!" that gets a huge roar of laughter from the kids.  That doesn't play as well with adult audiences, unless they're at a Pauly Shore movie.

The animation style is a bit different than the "usual" CG look.  The characters are a bit more wildly drawn.  In fact, they look and move a bit more like stop-motion animation, such as Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas.  The lines and movements are a bit sharper and jerkier -- but this isn't a criticism.  It's more visually interesting and feels less like just another CG movie, which tend to all look alike after a while.

Overly sensitive parents might find some things to take issue with.  There's some violence (the penguins like to slap people around).  There are scenes of animals eating cute animals (circle of life, right?).  And there's a trippy drug scene that some people might think makes it look cool to do drugs.  Kids, if you're reading the Masked Reviewer...tell your friends.  We need the hits.

For most people though, it's just silly and cute. 

Now we're going to talk a bit about the voices.  Skip the next paragraph if you don't want to know anything about the voice actors.  And....go. 

So, a couple of voices will be easy to spot -- er -- hear.  Chris Rock  is very distinctive, and if you've ever heard him talk, you'll know which character he is.  He's not bad, but not great, either.  He's doing a g-rated Chris Rock animal.  The other lead voice is Ben Stiller, who brings a lot of energy...but he sounds like he always sounds.  Ben Stiller is funny, no doubt about it, but he always plays Ben Stiller.  Here, he's an animated animal Ben Stiller.  Same schtick.  Same mannerisms.  Then, there's former "Friends" star, David Schwimmer.  He's another guy with a distinctive voice that plays the character he's associated with all the time.  A more interesting performance is given by Jada Pinkett-Smith, who brings something outside of her normal persona to the character.  Same is true for Andy Richter, who pulls off adorable cuteness to a frightening degree.  Cedric the Entertainer is in the film, but it's not clear why -- he's not given any funny lines and the character is just sort of there...his character's name should have been Superfluous.  The two voices actors that steal the show, though, are Tom McGrath (who voices the lead penguin, and also happens to be the director of the film -- how lucky to be director and cast as a voice!) and Sacha Baron Cohen.  You may recognize that name if you're familiar with HBO's "Da Ali G Show" because it is he, Ali-G.  He steals the show and gives a memorable animated vocal performance; he doesn't just read lines as himself, he creates and becomes a character.  So there.  Someone also did a great job as the voice of a monkey, but the Masked Reviewer didn't see who it was. 

This is a film that animation aficionados will enjoy.  It's good for kids (unless they're the kids of overly sensitive parents), but adults will find more than enough to keep it entertaining.  It's not necessarily destined to become an all-time classic -- but it's got enough going for it to recommend to just about anyone.  In fact, there's considerably less bathroom humor in feels much more like a hybrid of a Warner Brothers cartoon and a Disney flick than a Dreamworks CG movie.  While it never ceases to amuse kids, bathroom humor can get old for adults (unless you're a PaulyShore fan).  It's nice to see a Dreamworks animation with only one fart joke. 


Expectation from the Title: When a former NASCAR racing champion loses the big race because he runs out of gas just a few inches before the finish line, he gets very, very mad, and decides to start his own extra-fuel racing league.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  The animals are friends, even though they're different species.  It's nice to see.

The Pros: A few funny moments, one really good laugh, and a movie that kids will go nuts for.  Good for kids and adults.  Not too much 5-year old humor (that is, humor for 5-year-olds, not humor that's 5 years old.)  Interesting look.

The Cons:  Uneven voice acting.  Some actors just show up and read the lines, but don't add much.  The story is kind of formulaic, even for a kids' movie.  Could use a few more laughs.

Cris Rock, Ben Stiler, Madagasscar, Sasha Baron Cohen are all here.

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