Film Previews: Madagascar

Going Wild in Madagascar

Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) is the stellar attraction at the Central Park Zoo. He lives like a king, dining on steaks and wowing crowds of onlookers with his fearsome roar and statuesque poses. His pals, Marty the zebra (Chris Rock,) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) do a bit of crowd pleasing themselves, while living the life of Riley in the Big Apple, replete with lavish meals and primo views of the park.

And like the song says, “If you can make it here. …” The only problem is some pesky penguins get it into their heads that being in a cage is a drag no matter how nice the cage. So they escape and Alex and his pals follow and – to make a long story short – they wind up in the wilds of Madagascar. So the question becomes, what are a bunch of pampered urban animals going to do in the jungle? Go native, of course!

Here’s what producer Mireille Soria, who also produced Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, has to say about this new animated film. “At the center of any movie is a good story. We began with the question ‘what would happen if a bunch of New Yorkers, like the gang from Friends or Seinfeld, were plunked down in the middle of the jungle?’”

From what I saw in previewing the first 40 minutes of the film, which was still being completed as we went to press, they run into a gaggle of party-loving lemurs that make the jungle look pretty inviting.  However, trouble starts brewing in paradise once our transplanted New Yorkers start to discover their true animal natures.

“As Alex (the lion) gets more comfortable in the wild, he gets hungry,” Soria explains. “And it comes down to what’s he going to eat, which turns out to be … his friends!”

Whoa! Now that’s not a problem often encountered in network sitcoms, let alone in children’s animated films. But according to Soria the theme of this film is that “we can transcend what nature presents us with.”

From what I saw, this film will work well for young kids up to about age 10, but Soria hopes it will work for an even broader audience.

“There’s a lot of physical comedy in this, which will appeal to young children, and a whole lot of jokes and asides between the guys that will work for older kids and adults. So I hope it will work for everyone.”

Madagascar is slated to open May 27, and will be rated G or PG.

– Philip Murphy

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Philip Murphy covers family-oriented films for United Parenting Publications.