Madagascar (2005)

Rating: B-

Dir: Eric Darnell + Tom McGrath
Star (voice): Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett-Smith

I liked this. So sue me. And, believe me, I didn’t want to, since my tolerance of Chris Rock can usually be measured in nano-seconds. But, somewhat against my will, I found this entertaining: no-one will mistake it for great art, or even great animation, but it’s kinda the cinematic equivalent of Tetris, and works around its limitations very nicely. Alex (Stiller) is a lion in Central Park Zoo, whose zebra neighbour Marty (Rock) yearns for The Wild. Through a chain of unfortunate events, the pair, along with a hippo (Pinkett-Smith) and hypochondriac giraffe (Schwimmer), end up on the titular island, where the native lemurs (led by Sacha Baron-Cohen) see them as a defense against the local predators.

As with most such films, the fun is less the plot than the details, such as the paranoid penguins, who discover Antarctica isn’t all its cracked up to be. Or two monkeys, an erudite one, keen to escape so that he can go see Tom Wolfe – while the other just wants to throw poo at him. Will anyone under the age of thirty even understand that? Ditto the ‘acid trip’, or references to Planet of the Apes, Chariots of Fire and… American Beauty? Sure, it’s not Pixar, lacking much (okay, any) emotional depth; but how many films are? It is also true that Rock and Stiller hardly bring much to their characters – the hippo is so underused as to be irrelevant. Yet the decent script and bright, sprightly animation carry this more than adequately. That, and the penguins, which steal the film with an effortless grace that has me thinking: spin-off.