It’s Friday at Central Park Zoo in New York, and that means tour groups. Lots of them, mostly school kids, the perfect audience for the spoiled and pampered animals. Just ask Alex (Ben Stiller) the lion, the zoo’s star and chief proponent of fast food and easy living. Today is also Marty (Chris) the zebra’s tenth birthday, and even before he blows out the candles on his cake, Marty knows exactly what he wants: freedom!

Marty dreams of running free in the tall grass of Madagascar, a dream which is always interrupted by his zoo reality. With the help of a group of scheming penguins, Marty breaks out, and with directions from a police horse, cautiously makes his way to the train station. Shocked to learn that Marty is missing, Alex, Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) the hippo, and Melman (David Schwimmer), a neurotic giraffe, sneak out of the zoo in search of their friend. Instead of freedom, the foursome wind up in crates headed for Madagascar.

Madagascar, the latest computer generated animated film, is a colorful trip filled with wild abandon and a true sense of adventure. Using stylized animation, the filmmakers create a believable world where all of this seems possible. The animators are aware of their limitations (hair is always problematic) and work around them. The end result is a photo realistic animated film that looks like a live action cartoon. This compromise makes it easy for us to suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride.

Filled with clever jokes, witty puns, hilarious visual gags and just enough faux fear to generate a modicum of suspense, Madagascar is a delight from the first frame to the last. Every character, even the smallest bit player, have been rendered with detail and care. The voice talent breathes life into these digital creations, especially Rock as the cocky Marty, who learns the hard way to be careful what you wish for.

Stiller lends a playful nobleness to Alex, who craves the catered life, especially after his natural hunting instincts kick in. Whereas Marty seeks more freedom, Alex is forced to cordon himself off to curb his appetite. Alex and Marty are always butting heads, but when Alex actually wraps his teeth around Marty= s butt, it= s a scream. So are most of the visual gags, which run the gamut. Kids will appreciate the silliness, while adults will appreciate the topical and tropical humor and visual palette.

Watching the little old lady pummel Alex with her purse inside Grand Central Station is worth the price of admission.

Bungle In The Jungle

Zoo Animals Trip Out in Madagascar


Voice talent of David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller. Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. Rated PG. 88 Minutes.

Larsen Rating: $8.00

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