In Madagascar, a group of zoo animals are thwarted in a sort-of accidental escape from their zoo, and become shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar when they are meant to be sailing to a safari park/wildlife reserve in Africa. Some of the animals (especially the zebra Marty) are excited by the prospect of new-found freedom, while Alex the pampered lion would rather be at home in the zoo, being fed steak on demand and selling images of himself in snow globes to the tourists. Now that they are unrestrained by fences and people, they have to survive in the wild and try to avoid eating each other. Throw in some hyperactive partying lemurs, and that’s pretty much the extent of the plot.
I could take or leave this film to be honest, there are a lot of things I like in it but there are also things which I dislike to a greater extent in it. Things I like: animated films, especially monster/animal/things-that-aren’t-human based animated films; cute baby animals with enormous eyes; Chris Rock, but only for the first half or so (unless he’s in a Lethal Weapon film, because there is absolutely nothing that could ruin those films for me, not even Patsy Kensit and her horrendous accent). Things that I dislike: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock after the first half hour or so (he couldn’t ruin the Lethal Weapon films, but I must admit he even got rather annoying in those), but mainly Ben Stiller. I generally try to avoid watching anything with Ben Stiller in, because I find him quite irritating generally but, more to the point, his films are generally rubbish. They’re not as rubbish as the films of Will Ferrell, and definitely not as bad as those of Adam Sandler (who I will avoid at ALL costs because he really is terrible), but I generally wouldn’t choose to watch a Ben Stiller film.
The problem with putting Ben Stiller and Chris Rock in a film together is that it becomes a clash of big personalities. That’s fine in the sense that the storyline is essentially a clash of their characters’ big personalities, but it did kind of take over the film to the extent that everything else sort of faded into the background, and I felt like David Schwimmer’s character Melman, the hypochondriac giraffe, could have been made more of.
I would imagine that anyone planning to watch Madagascar would expect the film in general to be silly, at least some of the actors to be a bit annoyingly boisterous, and at least one adorable little baby animal (which is only adorable as long as it’s not talking or crying, but just when it’s doing the big Puss-in-Boots eyes), and they would be right on all these points. But I would advise them not to expect anything further, because there isn’t really anything further to the film. Yes, there are some quite funny bits, and yes, I did rather enjoy seeing a troop of lemurs shaking their booty, but the fact that everything turned out exactly as I expected suggests to me that it was all a bit too predictable. I think the main problem is that I’ve come to expect Great Things from DreamWorks films and, although Madagascar was one of their most commercially successful films, for me it could never compare with the heights of Shrek, Chicken Run, and How to Train Your Dragon. Maybe the sequels are better, I’m sort of tempted to give them a go for the sake of curiosity, but I think I’d rather rewatch Chicken Run.
See previous Film Review, featuring The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.