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:: Madagascar

If you're out for a few simple laughs, Madagascar is the cartoon to see. If you're after something to compare to Shrek, be prepared for disappointment.

This latest animation from Dreamworks is focused on animals from New York Zoo who are accidentally stranded in Madagascar during transportation. A hippo, zebra, lion and giraffe must learn to survive in the wild for the first time. The story takes a dark turn when Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) discovers his wild instincts and starts looking at his best friend and zebra, Marty, (Chris Rock) as food. Also starring are David Schwimmer as a hypochondriac giraffe and Jada Pinkett Smith as the heart-felt hippopotomus, Gloria.

With slap-stick physical humour and some great jokes, Dreamworks have attempted to combine classic Warner-Brothers simplicity with a very Disney-style tale of friendship. With an over-emphasis on comedy, it has more in common with American Pie than Shrek. The plot is left far behind, waning from the start and never quite keeping up. The film attempts a deeper content with the complex issue of betrayal as Alex ‘turns to the dark side’ of the wild, attacking his friends in a confused, savage state. The conflict is resolved in a very convenient and unsatisfactory way, and only serves to detract from the comedy the movie relies on.

The film struggles to appeal to all audiences and never quite gets there. Many of the jokes are aimed at adults that kids just wouldn't get, and Chris Rock seems uncomfortably restrained by a PG rating. Leading Stiller loses all of his comedy skill when translated to cartoon, and inspires little empathy as the confused lion.

Fortunately the back up cast was stellar. The Waif-like Pinkett-Smith as a hippo works surprisingly well, and she offers heart to the movie. Schwimmer is very funny as a paranoid giraffe, which doesn‘t seem far from his famous Friends’ character. Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer and Andy Richter add to the mix of monkeys, penguins and other little furry creatures who are definitely worth the watch.

The animation is nowhere near the quality of Shrek, but more of a ‘classic’. If they had kept to a simple plot and given their back-up cast a bigger role this film would have been a brilliant nod to the Bugs Bunny style of comedy that really would make this movie classic