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“Madagascar” fails to amuse

Directors Tim McGrath and Eric Darnell bring DreamWorks’ latest computer animation release Madagascar to theaters, featuring celebrity voices such as Chris Rock and Ben Stiller.

The movie begins as Marty the Zebra is having a midlife crisis on his 10th birthday. After failed attempts to liven up his act, penguins put the idea in Marty’s head to escape from the zoo and live in the wild.

That night, as the other animals sleep, Marty leaves the Central Park Zoo. His friends Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe soon discover that Marty is gone and venture into the streets of Manhattan to save him from being caught and transferred to another zoo.

Instead of valiantly saving Marty, they are all caught and sent to Africa. The spoiled animals, softened by their posh lifestyle in New York, find themselves in the wild, unsure how to take care of themselves and blaming each other for their predicament.

Madagascar is less about the problems the animals face in the wild and more about their struggling friendships.

With a cast that includes actors known for their comedic talent, the film had the potential to be hilarious. However, the Ben Stiller humor that audiences have grown to love does not translate well into animation. Stiller’s character, Alex, was in no way responsible for any funny lines. The voice of Alex could have been done by anyone and it would not have made a difference.

Chris Rock, who voiced Marty the Zebra, also delivered a sub-par performance that could have been executed by any unknown actor for far less pay. DreamWorks should have saved themselves the money. Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Gloria the Hippo was underdeveloped and unmemorable.

The only character whose voice was well cast was Melman the Giraffe. David Schwimmer’s shaky, high-pitched whine was excellent for the hypochondriac humor.

The film’s only laugh-out-loud lines are had by the monkeys and penguins, which are not in the movie enough — only the beginning and the end.

Other than the penguins’ one-liners, the film was filled with attempts to get cheap laughs, though fans of fart jokes and Looney Tunes slapstick will rejoice. The kids in the theater thought it was great, but to an older audience it could seem tired.

Madagascar’s animation was fun. Over-exaggerated features and unique animation make the animals interesting and adorable. The small, fuzzy lemur with big, round eyes made the audience coo. The only problem with the animation concerns Cedric the Entertainer’s character. While it may be assumed that it is supposed to resemble the actor, the lemur instead looks like a cross between a Furby and Gizmo from Gremlins. He doesn’t even look like he is the same species as the other lemurs.

After banking on Shrek 2, one of the latest in a line of animated films to include adult humor, the creators tried to follow suit in Madagascar. References to works such as American Beauty, Lord of the Flies and Castaway, to name a few, will surely only be caught by adult viewers. While these scenes could produce a solitary chuckle from adults, overall they are, like the humor, somewhat tired.

Rating: D
Comedy, PG, Running time: 86 min.