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MADAGASCAR (article first published : 2005-06-28)

Co-directed and co-written by Eric Darnell, who was at the helm of the hit Antz, this new animated romp delighted a packed preview audience in Durban. And if it has to be admitted the film is not in the same league as the recent Shrek 2 or The Incredibles, there's no denying there are many fun moments in this glossy treat.

Darnell and co-director Tom McGrath set out to lend their animal adventure some of the zany, surreal atmosphere created by animation pioneers such as Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, the talents behind Bugs Bunny Wile E Coyote, Daffy Duck and others from the Looney Tunes stable. They wanted the comedy broad and slapstick and special technology had to be invented to allow the animators to pull and push and stretch objects. The result is a well-animated and often witty tale which, if suffers from a wafer-thin plot, is packed with enough good gags and amusing characters to keep the young of any age happily entertained.

The story centres on a group of pampered animal friends at the New York Zoo - a team that sets out to find a missing friend, motor-mouth zebra Marty (Chris Rock), when he decides to follow the lead of a quartet of penguins that tunnel out of the zoo in a bid to experience life in the wild. Marty plans to be back before morning, but Alex the vain lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the flighty hippo (Jadda Pinkett-Smith) and Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) decide too much is at stake and break out themselves in search of him.

Finding it hard to pass for ordinary New Yorkers, the pals are eventually trapped, drugged, placed in crates and shipped off to Africa. There they eventually find their crates going overboard and being washed ashore in Madagascar.

Suddenly the animals, all of them raised in captivity, face a culture shock and become fish out of water in this new, wild, lush land. The plot thickens, ever so slightly, when they cross paths with a party-mad king lemur with an Indian accent (Sach Baron Cohen, aka Ali G) and his cute sidekick, Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer).

As holiday treats go, Madagascar should keep the customers satisfied. It gets a rating of 7/10. Billy Suter




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