By Laurence Washington
In a summer film season full of light sabers duels, sequels and television remakes from here to Christmas, "Madagascar" is a safe and unassuming little animated film that’s cute enough to keep kids entertained and the hold the attention of adults.
This current DreamWorks offering focuses on four New York City zoo animals, a zebra named Marty, Alex (a lion), Melman (a giraffe) and Gloria (a hippo). For the most part, the group is content living and performing their daily routines for hundred’s of New Yorkers. However, Marty starts feeling he’s getting old on his birthday, and becomes depressed because he’s never experienced living in the wild.
Chomping at the bit, Marty gets the idea to break out after talking to the zoo’s penguins who are planning to escape to Antarctica. So when Marty comes up missing, the other three animals break out looking for him. The ragtag zoo crew, including the penguins, are captured at Grand Central Station by the NYPD – are then crated up — and set upon a freight liner that will transfer them to another zoo. The penguins manage to escape from their confines, hijack the ship and head towards Antarctica. However, an accident at sea strands the New Yorkers on the shore of Madagascar.
Because they have had humans take care of them all their lives, these New Yorkers in a strange land find it hard to adjust to the wild and its inhabitants — the party loving lemurs called Malagasy, and the jackel-like Fousas. Also, since Alex is no longer being fed by his handlers, he suddenly discovers a strong desire to eat his friends.
Although there are plenty of smart one-liners and gags in this fish-out-of-water tale that adults and kids will find a hoot, such as the films compulsion to poke fun at pop-culture movies, Madagascar falls short of the computer animated bar set by Pixar. But taken on its own terms, it’s a great summer diversion to take the kids to for 90 minutes.