Sunday, September 8, 2013
(May 2005, U.S.)
One of the rather interesting bonuses (if not PITFALLS!) of raising a boy of only seven years-old in the 21st Century is that you're constantly exposed to (very often against your will) to the ongoing onslaught of computer animated films released by Disney and DreamWorks. They can be counted on throughout every summer blockbuster season and sometimes during the Christmas holidays. If you're like me and take all sorts of films seriously, then you really have to carefully pick and choose what can be appreciated by your own distinctive cinematic tastes. For most of these films, by the time they've gotten to the first sequel, they've lost my attention and my interest and then it's simply a matter of my tolerating whatever my son begs me to take him to see in the movie theater. Example? I had to sit through DESPICABLE ME 2 (it sucked!) over this past summer while he had himself a great time. However, every once in a while something original and fresh comes along that I'm willing to embrace and take the time to post on my blog. So that being said, enter MADAGASCAR.
This film tells the story of four Central Park Zoo animals who have spent their entire lives in blissful captivity. Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) couldn't be happier with the situation as he's constantly fed thick, juicy steaks and enjoys the attention of the people who come to visit the zoo and treat him like a celebrity. Marty the zebra (voiced by Chris Rock), on the other hand, longs to break free and see the wide open spaces of the great wild. So Marty decides to just leave the zoo one night on his tenth birthday and somehow make it to the wild via Grand Central Station. Alex and two other friends, Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (voice by the obnoxious David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) are very quickly hot on his trail via the New York City subways along with its everyday straphangers. They're all eventually sedated by tranquilizer darts (to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr's "The Candy Man" - very funny!) when Alex's attempt to communicate with humans is mistaken for aggression. The zoo (under pressure from animal-rights activists) is forced to ship the animals, by sea, to a Kenyan wildlife preserve. During their travels, the crates containing all four of our animal friends accidentally off the boat and wash ashore on the island of Madagascar. Once in the wild, the four "city slickers" have to adapt to new animals, new experiences and new dangers, including the temptation of survival of the fittest (that's mostly for Alex who suddenly starts interpreting his best friend as a great big steak).
For kids, of course, it's computer-generated animals who act silly and nutty and that's always fun for them. For the moms and dads, it's adult wit and humor spoken by animals living the life in the modern world that often comes with harsh wit and wise-ass cynicism that only we can understand and laugh at. For myself, it's amusing movie homages to classic favorites like PLANET OF THE APES (1968), SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (1977), CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981) and AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999). I also have a particular fondness for the beaches, the ocean and the blue skies as cinematography. Watching it in the form of computer animation isn't too terrible, either. As a film, MADAGASCAR proves it can be fun and fresh as we keep up on a crazy adventure around the globe with four rather kooky zoo animals. Unfortunately, though, like every other fresh idea that makes Hollywood some money, it eventually suffers from greed and overkill in the form of sequels. My son may not care about that, but I'm a completely different story!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Alex the Lion: "Did he just say "Grand Central Station," or "My aunt's constipation"?"