There are all sorts of things working against this film. The most notable is the fact that a certain standard has been set by "Finding Nemo" and "Shrek" and if it isn't one of those films, the critics jump all over it like paparazzi on a starlet accidentally flashing some nipple.
The movie centers on four Central Park Zoo animals who accidentally leave their comfortable confines and find themselves in Madagascar where an egotistic lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen) seems to rule. However, it should be about the penguins who set everything into motion. The penguins are clearly the most interesting characters in the film. Everyone wants more penguins. Unfortunately, penguins are not much fun to animate, I'd guess, so we get to follow around four considerably more boring characters: Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer - a bad sign) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith).
The penguins set everything in motion by tunneling out of the zoo and giving Marty the idea that the wild would be an interesting place to be. Marty escapes with a plan to get to Grand Central Station and head for Connecticut. The rest of the characters escape too, hoping to get Marty back, but they're captured. This prompts the humans to put them all on a boat to Africa, but their boxes fall off the ship and they all end up in Madagascar.
Ironically, it's when the story gets to Madagascar that the movie stalls badly. The primary story element concerns Alex's starvation and his increasing interest in taking a bite out of Marty's hindquarters - hardly life-affirming, metaphorical stuff. Has there been a successful movie about one character wanting to put his mouth on another character's ass? Like most of the animated features that people simply don't take to, "Madagascar" is more about the technology behind the animation than it is about the story. It's fine to look at the pretty colors, but when the story doesn't work, the movie is a failure.
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