Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2005. DreamWorks Animation, DreamWorks, Pacific Data Images. Screenplay by Mark Burton, Billy Frolick, Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath. Produced by Mireille Soria. Music by Hans Zimmer. Production Design by Kendal Cronkhite. Film Editing by Clare De Chenu, Mark A. Hester, H. Lee Peterson.
Adorable family film about animal residents in New York’s Central Park Zoo who have absolutely no idea what freedom is until they’re presented with the prospect. The star attraction, the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller,) enjoys the free steaks and adulation of worshiping children, the friendly hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) loves sleeping in her pond every night, and the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer) is in a constant state of anxiety (which is a comfort in itself). This leaves only the wistful zebra (Chris Rock) to wonder about the world around him in his perpetual boredom. His dream to live in the wild is finally accomplished when, after an unfortunate attempt at a trip to Connecticut, all four animals end up in crates on their way to Africa, and, after a small detour, rfind themselves in the wilds of Madagascar. Lots of cute puns (the lion’s American Beauty dream sequence, with raw steaks instead of petals, is brilliant) but none of them add up to the sharp wit of Shrek or its sequel. The film is over too fast, and is mostly just a distraction for children (which shouldn’t be surprising except that so many animated films of late achieve much more than that, or at least try). The voice work is engaging, the soundtrack terrific, and the island’s lemurs (who have a penchant for some wicked dancing) are a wonderful plus.