MADAGASCAR (Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath). 85 minutes. Opens Friday (May 27). For venues and times, see Movies, page 97. Rating: NN Rating: NN
I'm sure the folks at Pixar are smiling. Madagascar, by DreamWorks, is exactly the kind of film they refuse to make. Thin characters, plot that goes nowhere and animation that's cute but unoriginal. Why bother?
Cash, that's why. Like a lazy student, Madagascar hopes to make a few bucks at a cushy summer job, then split when it's done.
Four pampered animals at the Central Park zoo seem happy, especially star attraction Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller ). But zebra Marty ( Chris Rock ) is longing for some sort of adventure.
Soon the quartet - there's also David Schwimmer's hypochondriacal giraffe, Melman, and Jada Pinkett Smith's hippo, Gloria - lands on the streets and subways of New York, and eventually on an ocean liner.
Also along for the voyage are several scene-stealing penguins on a Mission Impossible quest, and two fecally obsessed monkeys.
It takes the filmmakers half the film to get the animals to Madagascar, yet once there they have no idea what to do with them.
There's little tension between the native lemurs (headed by Sacha Baron Cohen , aka Ali G, attempting an Indian accent) and the New Yorkers. Maybe the writers were fearing a PC-backlash if they portrayed the Africans as anything but kind and ineffectual.
What we're left with is a slapstick cartoon. Fine for toddlers who like colourful moving shapes, but dead in the water for people looking for more than a few Saturday-morning-cartoon laughs.