From 2003-2005 I did not see any feature films because I was on a mission for my church. There have been some films like The Incredibles (2004) that I have naturally caught up on but there are still many holes during those years. For example, the first Madagascar film I had never seen prior to this week. The only entry in the franchise I’d seen is the Penguins of Madagascar, which I enjoyed back in 2014. Unfortunately this first entry, Madagascar, isn’t as strong of a film and it left me a bit baffled at how 3 films were made.
I think what surprised me the most about this film is how horrible the animation was. Everything looked very strange and I thought it must have been released in 3D the way the heads of the characters kept flying towards the screen. I mean look at the image above. The neck on the giraffe would have to be 7 ft tall which is pushing it even for a giraffe. It looks so weird and there were many images like that.
Look at this zebra. His eyes are different sizes. His face looks strange and his mouth sticks out and is the size of his entire upper body. It looks so weird.
All of the characters are like that and the animation is also really jerky. Take a look at this clip of a birthday scene. Notice the way the characters heads jerk in front of the camera. It’s not the smooth and professional looking animation you expect from a major studio.
I also thought the story and characters were pretty pedestrian and bland. Basically Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) is tired of the life of the zoo and he wants to break free (how many times have we seen that story?) while Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) is fine being pampered. They eventually end up out of the zoo and have to find a way home. It’s pretty simple stuff we’ve seen a million times.
The best part of Madagascar is the voice acting which all works. It’s one of the examples where Dreamworks celebrity casting pay offs. Chris Rock is good as Marty, Ben Stiller as Alex and David Schwimmer as Melman. Most of the other characters aren’t given a ton to do but they fit well.
Also 2 groups of characters save the movie- the lemurs and penguins. The penguins are secret agent penguins that live at the zoo and are very funny. The lemurs live on the island and are ruled by King Julian voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen. They have a funny dance number and provide some unpredictability to the clunky script.
Other than that, I was pretty underwhelmed by Madagascar. The animation was bad. The story was pedestrian and boring. The characters were very predictable and bland. It certainly is shocking something so mediocre inspired 3 sequels. I’m told 2 and 3 get a lot better. Let’s hope so…
Overall Grade- C- for the lemurs and penguins