“Madagascar”: Slightly More Fun Than Taking an Airplane to the Actual Country of Madagascar
The experts agree:everyone loves a talking-animal movie. And where computer animation is concerned, everyone also loves a talking toy movie, and they will probably love that talking car movie coming out next year (aptly titled Cars). The people have spoken: ‘“Hey Hollywood,’” they say, ‘“we’re tired of things not talking! Whatever things you got ‘— make ’em talk!’
Madagascar tries to get by with the bare minimum, satisfying only the talking-animal requirement and exhibiting no true originality. The story of a loveable group of animals that escapes from the Central Park Zoo to rejoin the wild, the latest Dreamworks Animation film boasts everything you’d expect from Pixar’s less talented evil twin: celebrity vocal talent (Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, et al), several movie references no 8 year old would understand (including, among others, American Beauty and Castaway), and more cuteness than anyone over the age of 12 could reasonably demand. In the tradition of previous computer-animated films, things that are cute in real life (lemurs, penguins) are extremely cute when run through the Dreamworks filter, and things that are merely medium-level cute (zebras) to not very cute at all (hippos) become aggressively, almost violently cute. There are directors who use new technology to change the way we look at film (here’s to you, Peter Jackson), and there are directors who use the same technology to make theirs a more adorable world. Guess which I prefer.
But enough with the dour speechifying. Since Toy Story revolutionized the genre, adults tend to judge this newest epoch of cartoon cinema according to its universal appeal. All of a sudden, grown-ups have become spoiled. ‘“Never mind the kids for a second,’” we say, ‘“will parents be bored?’”
I didn’t want to fall into that trap. This is a children’s movie, lest we forget. And the truest measure of its success is whether or not the kids like it. I wanted an honest reaction, so I saw Madagascar in a theater full of young children. As an extra experiment (incidentally, I have no idea what possessed me to do this), I counted all the jokes that revolved around farting, pooping, flying underwear ‘— anything related to butts. The results of my little science fair: first, Madagascar got about a dozen big laughs from its target audience; second, almost all those laughs followed the movie’s seemingly innumerable butt jokes. This leads me to conclude that, regardless of the context, kids in general think butts are hilarious. As it happens I do too, causing me to further conclude that I like kids after all, possibly because I stopped maturing in 7th grade.
Butts aside, there really isn’t much to recommend Madagascar. I laughed out loud a few times, but even at a lean 80 minutes, listening to animals that sound exactly like Ben Stiller and David Schwimmer can make a film seem much longer than it is.
As I said before, however, the adults don’t matter. What do the kids think? It appeared that a lot of the little ones with whom I viewed it weren’t bowled over. Yours might be ‘— only they know. But I can virtually guarantee you that they will laugh when someone farts, and if you’re willing to embrace that aspect of the film, Madagascar might be worth a matinee.
Wanna make something of it? Direct your comments on this article to Glen Baity at firstname.lastname@example.org