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Some spies have seen MADAGASCAR... Will it make the kids smile or yawn'

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a pair of looks at MADAGASCAR, the newest Pixar-lite flick from DREAMWORKS. I know folks love the SHREK movies, but I was only really able to stomach the second one... and SHARK TALE was one of the worst films I saw last year. It just didn't work, depending way too much on wink-wink references and too little on making characters you didn't want to jab a rusty, dull hook through their obnoxious mouths only to slowly suffucate them in a cooler that smells of the death of its brethren mixed with stale beer...

I'm sorry... where was I? Ah, MADAGASCAR. We were shown about 10 minutes from the beginning of this flick at BNAT this year and it actually had some laughs. Some of the jokes fell flat, but the ones that worked made up for it... But the real thing that has me worried about this film is that the part that fell flat was most of the stuff with the main characters and the parts that worked were, seemingly, smaller, one joke characters, like the SWAT-like squad of Penguins.

I want this movie to be good. I really liked ANTZ and like I said above, I liked SHREK 2... I'd love to have nothing but greatly made animated flicks. Below you'll find two opinions... well, technically 4 opinions... First up is a father that took his 2 kids to a test screening with some unfinished effects... This is the least positive of the two reports we got in. The second report is more positive from our pal JinXy Chaos, who saw 40 minutes of finished film... Here is the first!

I went to see a test screening of Madagascar, with my two kids, ages 6 and 8. We were approached the day before by perky men holding clipboards. After going through the metal detectors, we were escorted to our seats. A few minutes later, Jeffrey Katzenberg walked in, surrounded by some of the key creatives from the film.

Because the movie was still a work-in-progress, with plenty of scenes shown as blocky renderings or sketches, it's difficult to come down too hard on the film. But to me and my kids, it felt consistently averagely mediocre. After seeing a movie, I always ask my kids, You wanna see it again? That tells me right there how *much* they liked it. They just kind of shook their heads, Nah. In the movie, a group of depraved zoo animals escapes, gets on a boat, and thinks they are heading to San Diego. They end up in Madagascar, where they fall into kingdom of spider monkeys. Once the animals escape from the zoo, and the movie changes settings, into the jungle, it becomes a bore. The penguins, a comedy mainstay from the first part of the movie, disappear for a while, and the plot points come together (Will the Lion eat his friends?) with a feeling of, Who really cares? Unfortunately, this film lags behind the last Dreamworks animated film, Shark Tale, and I don't see a real bright run for it.

Okay, I'm back. "... lags behind the last Dreamworks animated film, Shark Tale..." Yikes! I don't see how they could make it worse without really trying hard to do so... Here's a more positive look from JinXy. Maybe he saw the good 40 minutes? Hopefully there's another good 40 with at least a mediocre 10 or 20 thrown in there? I can compromise! It's also possible that seeing the final rendered version of the film will make all the difference in the world. Let's see what JinXy has to say:

Hey Harry,

JinXy Chaos returns from Madagascar….err the Movie not the island.

I was granted a look at portion of the film Madagascar the other night. From what they said the film is nearly complete, but out of the portion I saw it was pretty much done with only a few rough cuts and not refined CGI. No Animated storyboards or Animatics.

The film itself is pretty charming actually. The trailers don't do the film justice, sure it's a kids film and the trailers only want to show a few funny moments to get your kids juiced up to see it...and in that respect those trailers work just fine.

I wont talk about the plot too much since it's basically drawn out for you in the trailers as the fish out of water family film it is. But the movie takes a nice adult viewer friendly twist in how it's characters related to one another. The four main characters are at their core transplanted from both Seinfeld and Friends (maybe a little Fraser sprinkled on top). Much like Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer these are four characters who really shouldn’t be friends, yet despite their differences (or food chain status) life's little quirks have placed them all together for the duration. 

Of these four animals only one is truly dreaming of something better or at least different and is driven to find it, Otherwise they are all content to sit on display at the zoo being hand fed and spoiled. It's only when the Penguins (who rule by the way) plant the idea that life might be better somewhere else that Marty (Rock) feels the true weight of his restlessness an decides to go on a little trip, the end result of which is Marty and many of the other animals get a transfer to a new Zoo. And its Penguin intervention again that supplants this group of friends on Madagascar with among other things a group of insane rave dancing Lemurs.

As for the cast behind the voices, Ben Stiller is perfect in his role as Alex "The King of New York" Lion. He brings his dry yet childlike enthusiasm for goofiness and it fits. Chris Rock does what he does best and despite the fact that I think he's truly a funny guy He's just playing himself, but that's not a bad thing. David Schimmer as Melman the Hypochondriac Giraffe is pretty much Ross in Giraffe skin camouflage. Not much to say really it's not a good thing or a bad thing. I have to admit I'm not a fan of Jada Pinkett Smith but I have to say Her Gloria the Hippo is great! She's tough but as the Mother of the group she’s very warm and sweet. I had expected them to play her as Jada in a Low Down Dirty Shame (yes I've seen that…once) or something like it.

The real surprise in the cast is Andy Richter (A god of unappreciated comedy) and Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G). While I only got a few minutes worth of these two during this viewing I can see where they are going with them and it should be good. 

Being a parent I'm doomed to see pretty much any kids film out of the gate, So I appreciate it when a kids film can make me honestly giggle and enjoy myself. Thankfully I've done my job well and we watch stuff more like Wallace and Gromit and Robotech than forcing me to sit through Rugrats. (But I do know the Goofy Goober Song from Sponge Bob the Movie By Heart).

I've seen alot of test screenings and things like this and normally I don't prefer to write about them, partially because I was asked not too but mostly I try to realize it's unfinished work and by the time it screens it could be drastically different(good or bad) and besides I figure there's always time enough to bash a horrible film into the ground. But this time I was never asked NOT to write about it and it's a CGI film that seemed pretty locked on it's target so I gave it a shot and I hope it makes sense.

I'm sure this film wont be a grand slam like The Incredibles but it's going to be a funny pill to swallow while taking the kids out for a treat.

Hope you can use this.



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