Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Entire Franchise to Date: 'Madagascar'


When Zoo animals Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) are being shipped to the wild, their crates fall off the ship and wash on to the shores of Madagascar. There they are treated like Gods by the Lemur population, but the lack of food starts to make Alex one dangerous predator.

In the post-The Incredibles (2004)/pre-Ratatouille (2007) era for computer animation DreamWorks were especially average or even disappointing, and Madagascar was released early on in this. Don't get me wrong, the film is by no means bad, but it isn't brilliant either. The animation is bright and colourful, with New York City and the jungles of Madagascar being beautiful and bold in design, and the Ocean waves graceful, although the faces of the animals don't convince as much as the faces of animals in Pixar films due to the fact, particularly around the nose area, they look a bit too blocky and set shaped, although the fur is very detailed, particularly in Alex's mane.
The screenplay itself isn't too bad either, with some quite comical moments and sly set-ups, plus some brilliant dialogue for the four Penguins (Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, John DiMaggio, Christopher Knights), but it is brought down by a rather anti-climactic final 15 minutes, and the odd scene which is slow-moving as it is just the four main characters arguing and stressing out. There is also a substantial lack of character development, with the only exception really being Alex, and despite some excellent, energetic voice performances you just can't be brought in so much by underdeveloped, under-written characters.

At the end of the day, though this is a fun and enjoyable film, and despite its flaws it's worth a watch, and the success of this film started DreamWorks second franchise after the Shrek franchise (2001-).

Stars: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, John DiMaggio, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon, Fred Tatasciore, Elisa Gabrielli.

Annie Award nominations: Best Animated Feature (DreamWorks Animation), Best Animated Effects (Matt Baer), Best Animated Effects (Rick Glumac), Best Animated Effects (Martin Usiak), Best Character Design in an Animated Feature Production (Craig Kellman), Best Production Design in an Animated Feature Production (Yoriko Ito), Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production (Tom McGrath), Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production (Catherine Yuh), Best Music in an Animated Feature Production (Hans Zimmer).

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

When flying back to New York the plane carrying Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), the Penguins (Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, John DiMaggio), the Monkeys (Conrad Vernon), Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) and Mort (Andy Richter) crashes in an African Wildlife Preserve, Alex is reunited with his parents (Bernie Mac, Sherri Shepherd), but quickly loses his dad the title of Alpha Lion, so must take on the power-hungry Makunga (Alec Baldwin) to regain his dad's repuation.

For the initial twenty minutes or so, we have a film that feels just as enjoyable as the 2005 original, but is also presents a fairly moving opening, which comes a surprise and successfully draws us in. The jokes are less than expected, but still fairly amusing. After the crash land in Africa, however, the film just seriously goes down hill.
In Africa the jokes become far more frequent and far less amusing, resorting to cheap gags, such as cartoon violence which looks more like cartoon violence happening in a live-action film, as cartoon violence doesn't suit computer animation; and also jokes about big butts, which are rarely funny, as well as gags of common errors/foolish mistakes, which are underwritten and just fail to amuse.
After this the characters also become far too underdeveloped, with several new characters introduced as part of the Africa story, but barely getting the surface of them scratched, and some of the original characters in a number of scenes get pushed aside and get a lot less development than is expected. The number of scenes which are both underwritten and also unnecessary is genuinely staggering, and its clear they failed to focus on the screenplay as they worked as hard as possible to get a sequel to what became a much loved film three years earlier out in cinemas. Even the Penguins aren't as entertaining, with their antics not as funny when you see their general personalities in a couple of scenes.

At the end of the day the main strand of the film is The Lion King (1994) but in the over-excited, gag-reliant style of Madagascar, and it is poorly written, with the plot not well developed, pointless subplots, and no amount of bright, colourful animation - which isn't brilliant, but still nice to look - and energetic voice acting can make up for this. It is the worst computer animation from DreamWorks to date, and is not one to watch in a hurry.

Stars: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bernie Mac, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, John DiMaggio, Alec Baldwin, Sherri Shepherd, Andy Richter, Elisa Gabrielli, will.i.am, Conrad Vernon, Fred Tatasciore, Quinn Dempsey Stiller, Declan Swift, Thomas Stanley, Zachary Gordon, Willow Smith.

Annie Award nominations: Best Animated Effects (Fangwei Lee), Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production (Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Etan Cohen).

The TV series The Penguins of Madagascar (2009-) continues to air, while TV special Madly Madagascar is set to air this year. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted gets its cinematic release on June 8th 2012, while an Untitled Madagascar Penguins film has been confirmed. DreamWorks have also stated it is very likely a fourth film will be made where the animals return at last to New York.

1 comment:

  1. The film is not bad, but not brilliant, it part of the story in Africa launched several new characters. I love movies, but this was good but not amazing. By the way nice blog.

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