Madagascar is a 2005 computer animated comedy film from DreamWorks Animation with the voice cast comprising of Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. It is one of the company’s worst movies.
It is about the zoo animals who having spent most of their lives in the city are now shipped to the wilderness and get shipwrecked on the Madagascar island. Now, the story, as everything in this movie, is so-so. It starts off somewhat promising, but it then quickly goes into mediocre territory with an overreliance on cheap humor and some very unfortunate choices. The only thing I liked when it comes to the plot is Alex’s struggling with his true lion nature in the second half. But even that is done in a rather unimpressive and predictable manner. But that is still the only time when DreamWorks acknowledged the characters’ species. That is one of the biggest problems here. Instead of teaching kids about these animals, they just turn them into human-like characters with no traces of their true characteristics which is something that Disney did many times. That is such a poor choice from the filmmakers.
Now, the humor does have some fine moments and it admittedly did make me laugh a couple of times with some solid observational lines, but the jokes otherwise mostly fall flat and again the overreliance on pop music and film references really annoyed me. The film references were a bit more clever here, but are still not funny at all.
The characters are okay. It is weird for me to say it, but no matter how annoying they may be, they are the best parts of the movie without a doubt as most are quite solidly developed and I really liked the chemistry between them and they really felt like a team. Alex the lion is the best developed character here and his relationship with Marty the zebra is really well done. But he is a bit obnoxious near the beginning and too hip as is Marty who is too on-the-nose, but still providing most of the laughs. Melman the giraffe is a highly familiar character with his typical neurotic behavior, but he still fits within a team rather well and provides some solid slapstick.
Gloria is solid as this female hippo but is to me the most forgettable member of this foursome. As for the lemurs, they are very annoying in my opinion with King Julien being well voice cast, but still too ridiculous. And the storyline with the lemurs is so incredibly cliched and serves very much like a filler even. But the penguins are absolutely great. They are the comedic highlights with some incredibly hilarious lines including the movie’s conclusion as well as some great scenes with the humans which were hilarious. They are great because they are used best and sparingly which is the reason why ‘Penguins of Madagascar‘ failed as a movie because it did the exact opposite. Supporting characters, especially sidekicks, are just best left as supporting players.
The voice cast is an interesting matter indeed. On the one hand, I really do despise the use of celebrities in animation as it can significantly distract you from the movie and I did dislike it here in the beginning as it did not mash well with their characters, but I did grow accustomed to it in the process as all of the actors really did a solid job with their performances. Ben Stiller is quite good as Alex and Chris Rock, while too loud and basically playing himself, is still very good and he even brought some heart to Marty’s character. Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer are also solid as the other two, but the penguins are really well acted and Sacha Baron Cohen did an expectedly good job in the role of King Julien.
The animation is the absolute worst aspect of Madagascar, I have to be honest. I think this was dated even when it came out back in 2005. It is so cheap-looking and so incredibly weak that I wonder how they managed to put that product out in theatres. And yes, it is ten years old, but much older films like ‘Shrek‘ for example look much, much better. The forests are badly animated, the character design is typical and the colors are not that good. This was dated even in 2005 and it certainly is now.
Madagascar is most certainly a frothy film with no value or any really felt emotion or artistry whatsoever. But to me it wasn’t even that entertaining to begin with. However, I changed my mind about this film upon second viewing. When I first watched it five years ago, I thought it was the worst animated film of all time! And that is surely a hyperbole as it is nowhere near as bad and now I deem it mediocre and not really bad at all. But it is still one of the worst (and possibly even the very worst) DreamWorks animated film.
The directing is weak and it is technically a weak film. It is so-so edited and the music is annoying. Some songs are my favorites, but they still do not belong and I dislike their inclusion. The dialogue is immature as is the humor which is, while not without its moments, still very lazy and targeted at preteens more than anyone else. The tone is solidly balanced between drama and comedy and the acting is pretty good. But the animation is weak and the overall lack of vision or point is definitely felt. And as for its place in the trilogy, it just might be the worst as even ‘Madagascar: Escape to Africa‘ is more entertaining and better written.