Monday, May 30, 2005

Review by Sombrero Grande

Madagascar is sure to be a fun movie for kids, but it offers up far less than Shrek or any given Pixar film for their parents in the audience. It’s definitely the most “junior” of DreamWorks’ animated films, but that’s not necessarily at bad thing. At a time when the main alternative in theaters for kids is a popular franchise film wherein the hero of the previous two installments turns to the Dark Side, kills a bunch of kids and gets crunchy and melted in a pool of lava, Madagascar should come as a welcome sigh of relief for parents with younguns itching to go to the movies.

The story is about as kid-friendly as they come. Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo, Melman the giraffe and Marty the zebra are all exceedingly well taken care of at the New York Central Park Zoo, but on his tenth birthday, Marty develops a bit of a mid-life crisis and starts daydreaming about escaping to “the wild.” It just so happens that some scheming penguins are plotting an escape and Marty unwittingly sets the wheels in motion to get them all out of the park and on a boat bound for a wildlife preserve. A mishap on the boat dumps Melman, Marty, Alex and Gloria off on the island of Madagascar and previous best friends Alex and Marty start butting heads and realizing that in “the wild,” natural instinct is going to make it harder to remain friends than they ever expected.

There’s no real villain to be found in Madagascar, so the kids won’t hide their eyes whenever some Scar-like character starts prowling around. But the cute ‘n’ fuzzy story, while great for little ones, leaves little for adults to be interested in. None of the characters really have arcs; they essentially return at the end to the same way they were at the start of things. The closest a character gets to undergoing a change is Alex, though his “transformation” is far from sizeable. Being raised in “civilized” captivity, Alex never had to hunt for a single meal and is completely oblivious to where his favorite food, steak, comes from. When he learns in the wild that his instinct tells him to eat his delicious zebra friend, and he finds himself incapable of eating veggies, there doesn’t seem to be any way to prevent him from either starving or chomping his buddies. Madagascar’s cop-out, feel-good, tacked-on ending finds Alex {spoiler alert} realizing that he likes eating fish even more than steak, so his friends are safe and he doesn’t shrivel up and die. While kids probably won’t seem to care since there’s no cute Nemo or Dory in the movie, adults are likely to wonder, “what makes eating the fish okay?” A great potential cameo could have had Alex munching on Oscar and the rest of the cast from DreamWorks’ floating turd Shark Tale. Hey, at least that’s something the adults in the audience could get behind.

The highly stylized animation looks great and there’s lots of vibrant color everywhere, but there’s very little action that takes place. I found many stretches of the film to drag on and on because of this, but, surprisingly, the kids in the audience didn’t seem restless at all.

The humor, save for a few cute parody moments, is very juvenile (lots of characters getting hit in the face, making goofy noises, some light bathroom humor, etc.). While little of it was to my taste, the kids in the audience really seemed to be having a good time. While a few of the potty gags will likely raise an eyebrow or two, the storyline and characters in the film make it feel very warm and inviting for little ones. A word of warning, though, if your kids are prone to copying what they see done in the movies, let them know clearly beforehand that spitting your beverage at the dinner table is NOT appropriate behavior.

Madagascar truly is a “kiddie” movie. It offers little for adults, but its gentle story, focus on friendship and silly-looking, colorful characters should make it a hit with kids.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?