Thanks to a solid stable of voice talent, Madagascar is able to overcome its mundane plotting and generic concept to become a fun, lively animated movie. Dreamworks animation can never be underestimated, even in the face of larger studios like Pixar, and it’s films like Madagascar (and of course Shrek) that have made Dreamworks animation a household name.
Anthropomorphic animals are the star of this show, including penguins… because apparently every animated movie needs animated penguins. Nonetheless, Madagascar is quick to engage its audience with sharp dialogue loaded with pop culture references and poop jokes. Can’t go wrong with monkeys flinging poop.
For the kids, there’s limited action. The story probably won’t engage them either. The shipwrecked animals sit around, fight, and make up for most of the film. Prior to that, they discuss life issues inside the Central Park Zoo. A solid zinger or two in there helps, but it’s going to be the animation that keeps kids entertained.
Madagascar is full of color, and its character design is all around excellent. Characters like Gloria and Melman, who are there for little more than comedic relief, still engage the audience purely because of their animation, but their antics make it hard to simply dismiss them as secondary.
With a running length of 80 minutes the film moves briskly, and the ending is both anti-climatic and open. It doesn’t feel like a cap to the story, but more like the start of a new plotline. That probably explains the sequel, but also leaves this one feeling unfinished.
Madagascar stands out against its competitors (such as the dull The Wild) purely because of its quality. From its animation to its fun gags, Madagascar is worth the price of admission. Don’t expect to take much away aside from those laughs though, as its story is strictly an excuse for the on-screen antics.
Unsurprisingly, the film shines on Blu-ray. The gorgeous island setting is ripe for praise, and the transfer doesn’t disappoint. Color bursts off the screen, and the sheer amount of detail actually pulls out some minor flaws in the textures. Individual strands of fur are noticeable, and must make all of the time spent animating them worthwhile. There were no noticeable scenes that showed artifacting, and the contrast, thanks to rich black levels, is perfect throughout.
Madagascar boasts some mundane sound design, and this TrueHD mix represents that. Positional audio is rare aside from minor action sequences. They’re only called on when needed. The jungle should be far more alive than it is with ambient audio. Bass doesn’t disappoint though, giving the LFE channel plenty to work with. It’s nothing special, but does offer a crisp, clear presentation.
Extras are quick and to the point. A commentary from the co-directors leads things off, followed by four featurettes. "Behind the Crates" is the longest at over 20 minutes, detailing the various production aspects. Another deals with voice acting, there's a very basic look at the technology used to make the film, and another featurette looks at the real life Madagascar.
A short round up of animation mistakes is followed by a dull “commentary” over certain scenes by the penguins. However, they make up for it in a fun short, Christmas Caper. A pop-up trivia track, some stuff for the kids, and loads of Dreamworks trailers finish off a routine set of extras.
The penguins were actually part of a different film director Eric Darnell was working on. When that was cancelled, he worked them into the plot here. They used to be musicians, but were turned into commandos to better fit the film.