Mid life crises are a pain in the butt
AFTER A tough couple of weeks, when parents may have been a bit apprehensive about taking their impressionable young tykes to violence filled films like Star Wars and Batman Begins, their minds can now be put at rest because DreamWorks has just released Madagascar. If your little one can handle a lion biting a zebra’s butt, then he or she will be laughing for days, and you’ll probably have a sly giggle to yourself as well.
Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), all live the good life in New York’s Central Park Zoo, but with celebrations for Marty’s 10th birthday underway, he has entered mid-life crisis territory. While many guys might buy a Porsche 911, find a younger woman or start up golf when middle age approaches, Marty dreams of living in the wild. He believes, in his striped heart of hearts, that he can be free there, even though he has spent all of his days in the zoo. However, his friends don’t share the same desire.
They are pretty happy with the ‘cushty’ little number they have at the zoo, Alex is the big star, loves all the attention and especially loves the steaks. Melman is a hypochondriac – aren’t all giraffes? He likes the medical facilities at his disposal, and Gloria from the ghetto enjoys just relaxing in her big pool. One day, Marty learns that the penguins (the movie’s biggest stars) are planning a CIA type escape from the zoo, heading for the wild, which they tell Marty is a lot like Connecticut. Figuring he can make it back by morning, Marty heads for Grand Central Station to take the train to the wilds of Connecticut, where he can run around a bit, and head back home before anyone finds out. Of course, his friends discover he’s missing and head out to bring him back, and somehow the four find themselves washed up on the shores of Madagascar. Alex, Gloria and Melman aren’t nearly as thrilled by this new development as Marty, but they try to make the best of their new surroundings. However, the jungle starts bringing out the predator in Alex, who, becoming increasingly hungry – starts to struggle not to see his friends as the natural link in his food chain.
It’s true, talking animals are funny! You give me a wisecracking zebra and I’m going to laugh. The jokes are aimed at kids with a few for the adults thrown in, the characters are well-defined, and the adventure that takes them far from home makes Madagascar a smile inducing comedy. Each character is fully developed, with their own unique personalities, with much of the humour coming from how they interact with each other and the challenging new surroundings.
Madagascar also showcases some fine animation. Many raved about the level of detail and realism of The Incredibles, but Madagascar is very close to being its equal. The little details like the whiskers on Marty’s chin, fuzzy coconuts and the mane on Alex’s head with its individual strands of hair and ever changing condition, depending on the humidity – something all us girls can sympathise with, make the characters really come alive. While they don’t look real, they are very likeable, and you get drawn into their plight as the story evolves whether you want to or not
Madagascar is heavy on jokes and light on story, which surprisingly turns out to be in its favour. Running less than 90 minutes, the film flies by and you don’t have much time to think about plot deficiencies. However, there is a strange moral at play here. When denied his daily rations of juicy steak, Alex has frenzied hallucinations, imagining his buddies as walking slabs of meat, and him biting on their butts. Does this mean that if we leave animals in zoos, where they can be cared for by us humans, the ‘natural’ balance is kept, but let them run free and that balance is toppled? Is this a message we really want our young ones to be seeing?
***-Grab your little sister, cousin or nephew for a valid excuse to have a laugh at a zebra’s expense!