Flashback Review: Madagascar

After “Shrek 2” & “Shark Tale” were released in 2004, DreamWorks Animation worked on their next project about four pampered zoo animals, a self-absorbed lion, a zebra with an existential crisis, a sassy hippo and a neurotic giraffe who are inadvertently stranded on an island, are forced to survive the wilderness. Along the way, they encounter wildlife. The plot I’m referring to is none other than “Madagascar.”

Madagascar was released in 2005. (same year Wallace And Gromit: The Curse of The Were-Rabbit came out) It received mixed reviews from critics and made enough revenue at the box office. The movie spawned two sequels, a spin-off focusing on The Penguins and an animated non-canon television spin-off on Nickelodeon. DreamWorks Animation’s most recent entry, “The Bad Guys” starring Sam Rockwell & Awkwafina is officially in theaters. Antonio Banderas will reprise his role as Puss in Boots in a second spin-off to “Shrek” known as, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” will be released on September 23rd, 2022.

Today’s review contains no SPOILERS. I’m giving some of you a chance to see the first installment of the Madagascar series.

Smile & Frown Aspects

Smile: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer & Andy Richter (Conan O’Brien’s sidekick) all did a funny as heck job for their respective voiceover performances. Keep in mind, this is before Jada’s hubby Will slapped Chris in the face. The closest thing we see Deadshot (from Suicide Squad) slapping Marty the Zebra.

Tom McGrath did a decent job directing. He also provided the voice of Skipper. Tom’s fellow animator Chris Miller voices Skipper’s second-in-command Kowalski.

Animation’s spastic movement, character models and environmental locations were brought to life using computer animation.

Humor contains visual gags, well written dialogue, pop culture references and risqué jokes we didn’t get as kids.

Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) orchestrated the soundtrack.

Chemistry between Alex, Marty, Gloria & Melman serves as the main highlight. Their strong bond shapes the story.

Character Development involving Alex. As the movie progresses, he goes from a self-centered attention seeker to a loyal friend trying to protect Marty, Gloria & Melman from harm.

According to Tom, Skipper, the leader of The Penguins, is based on tough guy actors he grew up watching such as Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Robert Stack, John Wayne & Charlton Heston.

Contrary to popular belief, the theme song, “I Like to Move It” was already around in 1993. Which is the year I was born. The song was used in “Saving Silverman” & “The Master of Disguise.” It gets Bonus Points with every character dancing during the end credits. DreamWorks is known for ending a movie with a dance party. Even non-DreamWorks entries “Robots” & “Chicken Little” ended with the cast dancing. Unlike the former, the latter is one big pile of doo doo.

During a trippy scene, Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Candy Man Can” from Gene Wilder’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” is played in the background. Back in 2005, the remake (Tim Burton coined the term “reimaging”) with Johnny Depp came out in 2005.

My favorite line is, “You bit the hand Marty, you bit the hand!” I often utter it out whenever somebody screws up big time.

My favorite character from the series is King Julien. Sacha improvised his material. Runner-up favorite is Marty thanks to Chris’ improvisational skills. He has experience voice acting since “Osmosis Jones.”

Opening Scene officially establishes what you’re about to see will make you laugh so hard.

One scene shows Alex looking at a camera doing a blue steel pose. A reference to “Zoolander.”

A character has a dream sequence spoofing the rose petals scene from “American Beauty.” Sam Mendes’ “Jarhead” came out in 2005.

Two characters utter out the phrase, “What have I done.” Anakin said it in “Revenge of the Sith.” Coincidentally, it also came out in 2005. Heck, Kowalski said, “It’s an older code” from “Return of the Jedi.”

Despite overused in many movies/shows, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” perfectly matches a montage sequence. The song’s inclusion in “Good Morning Vietnam” & “12 Monkeys” fits well.

The Ending subtly sets up “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

Frown: Bee Gees’ “Stayin Alive” is played when Marty walks in the streets of New York City. I think it’s time to put a rest to that song. It’s been used countless times.

The Final Verdict: A-

From my point of view, Madagascar is one of my second favorite Dreamworks Animated franchise with the Shrek series as the top spot. If it weren’t for a one nitpick, I would’ve given it my highest grade an A, FOR APEX. An A- will do. I still don’t get why some critics liked and disliked it. Regardless of mixed reactions, if you want to introduce your kids to the Madagascar movies, start with the first one.

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