"Madagasgar" has an identity issue. On one level,
it wants to be a hip kid's movie. On another level, it wants to be funny
and relevant to adults who get jokes about HMOs. On yet another level,
it doesn't focus on which character's story it's trying to tell.
"Madagascar" is now available on Blu-ray.
On the surface, the movie has some charming moments and secondary characters who are funny. What throws the film off are the main characters whom we're supposed to care about for 86 minutes. Alex the Lion is a somewhat egotistical animal. Marty is a zebra who wants something more than his pampered zoo life. Gloria the hippo doesn't want or really do anything in particular. Melman the giraffe is a whiny hypochondriac. They add up to an ensemble that's really not very interesting to watch after the first ten minutes of the movie. And I don't know how many times each of the characters calls each other's name. Alex! Marty! Gloria! Melman!
The movie is watchable, though some of the scenes drag on a bit. The first 20-minutes of the movie are fairly slow going. The action doesn't pick up until the animals get to Madagascar, and even there, the action and pacing of the movie is at times slow.
The movie represents, at least in my mind, so many issues that plague many of DreamWorks' animated movies. It's the "DreamWorks Recipe." Take an all-star cast to do the voices, mix in trendy dialogue, add a teaspoon of off-the-shelf hit songs including the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and the theme from "Hawaii Five-O" during a surfing scene, put in some occasionally funny secondary characters like penguins to make the young kids laugh, add predictability, add some sappy moments, then finally add a sprinkle of adult jokes, and bingo, you get a DreamWorks animated movie like "Madagascar." Despite the success of this film, and that a sequel is on the way, I don't believe this film will be regarded as a classic over the years. It's too contemporary and lacks a story and characters that you want to come back to.
DreamWorks has shown that it can produce some stellar animation that doesn't rely totally on the ingredients mentioned above. "Over the Hedge" contains many of the "DW Recipe" ingredients, but it relies on a good story and characters with more depth than "Madagascar." "Shrek 2" actually fiddled with the "DW Formula" and came up with a pleasing recipe. The "DW Recipe" has apparently worked for years, but it doesn't necessarily mean it's a recipe that causes one to watch these movies over-and-over again. Does anyone really race to their DVD shelf to watch "Antz?"
The animation in "Madagascar" is very good, though I found myself not enjoying the angled design of the characters after awhile. It's a fresh (as in 2005 when the film came out) look, but in the end I didn't find the characters appealing. The lemurs in the jungle are more rounded and their characters are enjoyable. Their time on-screen is far more fun than watching Alex, Mary, Gloria & Melman in their escapades.
The Blu-ray disc does the film's dimensional and sharp appearance justice. This is one of those Blu-ray discs that you can amaze your friends with excellent picture and very good sound, even if the movie is only so-so.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © DreamWorks Animation. All rights reserved.
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