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Not entirely for children



ANIMALS, MORE HUMAN THAN OTHERWISE: Madagascar

Madagascar
Genre: Animation
Directors: Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon, Tom McGrath
Cast: (voices) Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett- Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen
Storyline: City-bred zoo animals find they have to fend for themselves in the wild.
Bottomline: Visually pleasing, often laugh-outloud funny, but nothing wild.

`Madagascar' (in RDX format) could have starred Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw and friends. It's about four New Yorkers from Central Park Zoo who really are `city gals' who find `the wild' can be a daunting place. It stays that way till the end, keeping its head safely above the city slicker line, only occasionally showing its animal instinct.

You have Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Soul Sistah Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and the sleepy voice of David Schwimmer for Melman the hypochondriac giraffe.

Marty experiences a mid-life crisis on his 10th birthday. He wants to experience new things, taste `the wild' (he could have just called Mick Jagger for that) and answer philosophical questions such as "Am I white with black stripes or black with white stripes?"

Despite a birthday party thrown by his three friends and thoughtful gifts including Melman's first rectal thermometer thrown in for a personal touch, he plans to take the train from Grand Central ("both grand and central," points out one character) to Connecticut where the elusive `wild' is. After some misunderstandings, the animals find themselves being shipped to Kenya.

However, thanks to a neurotic penguin, they are washed ashore at Madagascar, a land with plenty of `wild' and large-eyed party animal lemurs with their King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen in an accent reminiscent of Peter Sellers). This is where the jokes begin to droop a bit. The makers do introduce scary conflict when a starving Alex's predatory instincts kick in (he has a dream where Mina Suvari's rose petal sequence in American Beauty is replaced by friend Marty cavorting in juicy red steaks). But it is resisted by civilised values such as friendship.

There are plenty of laughs for five-year-olds but like so many children's films before it, in parts, Madagascar would be lost on its target audience.

SUSAN MUTHALALY

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