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</script></div>{/googleAds}As the outdoor temperatures begin to rise, so do the expectations of this summer's moviegoer. But the long-anticipated Madagascar hits the theaters with a resonance that more closely mimics the timid squeak of a lemur rather than the ferocious roar of a lion. With each subsequent release of one of these full-length, computer-animated features, our bar of expectations is raised a few more notches. Fair or not, our gage is calibrated with the memories of Finding Nemo and Shrek. Any more Shark Tales and Madagascars and it might be time to call an end to this genre of moviemaking.

Marty the fun-loving Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) is celebrating his tenth birthday in the Central Park Zoo with his fellow captive creatures. As Alex the self-confident Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Melman the hypochondriac Giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer), and Gloria the motherly Hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) bring him his birthday cake, Marty can think of nothing but blowing the confines of his stone and steel enclosure to experience the "wild"... even though he's not real sure what that is. He's never actually seen the wild, and knows nothing about it, but he does know he's getting bored with the routine of zoo life. There's a slight message in Madagascar about the cruelty of animals held in captivity, but it's neither overpowering nor distractive.

Chris Rock's exuberance makes him perfect as the stir-crazy Marty, but unfortunately he's the only thing funny or entertaining for the film's rather dull first half. Listening to Marty is like listening to Chris Rock's stand up routine (sans the profanity of course) where he's always providing piercing comedy, but he's never mean or hateful. I could almost see his gleaming, white-toothed smile on Marty's little zebra face as he utters words like "crack-a-lacking."

Capitalizing on an opportunity provided by a quartet of paranoid penguins longing for a life on Antarctica, Marty slips out of the zoo and immediately heads to Grand Central Station. Of course he doesn't have an ultimate destination in mind, but he's heard that Grand Central Station will get you anywhere. Fearing for the safety of their striped friend, Melman, Gloria and Alex head to Grand Central Station in hopes of convincing Marty that their captive life isn't so bad.

They manage to board a train but not before subjecting us to the slapstick brand of squash and stretch animation that was popularized by traditional cell animators. This zaniness seems tragically out-of-place with today's 3-D animation. Now don't get me wrong, I like a good jaw drop and eye-pop as much as the next guy, but today's 3-D animated features are above that. It seems the filmmakers want to make the characters whacky and goofy with their oddball antics so they can mask the fact that they're not sure where to take the plot next. Sure, it makes the kiddos laugh, but they're laughing at after-school Tex Avery cartoons, rather than at a feature-length movie competing with Star Wars: Episode III The Revenge of the Sith.

Marty, Melman, Gloria and Alex find themselves crated on an ocean liner heading for Kenya. But the penguins manage to hijack the ship and upon steering it into an about face, the four are tossed overboard eventually washing ashore on an apparently deserted island.

The film's apathetic pace begins to pick up a bit once the castaways are beached on the island of Madagascar. The pampered New Yorkers discover they are not quite ready for the "wild", but the audience finds itself overly anxious for some comedic relief that comes in the form of the island's only inhabitants - a colony of lemurs lead by King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen of Da Ali G Show) and his right-hand man Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer). The harsh life on the island begins to test the friendship of Marty, Alex, Melman and Gloria. Their natural tendencies begin to surface, causing the foursome to contend with some dangerous animalistic instincts.

By the time the lemur party begins, it's too late. We've already been subjected to a dull plot that makes Doctor Zhivago feel like an action movie. If they're interested in creating Madagascar II: Lemur Island, I'm in. But please, ease up on the head slaps, eye-pokes and pratfalls. We paid ten bucks and we're looking for the next Finding Nemo.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1; Full Screen 1.33:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; French: DTS 5.1 Surround Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access..

* Commentary: Hear the very first-ever Penguin Commentary as they give you their unique take on the film!
* Games: Escape with untamed games and jungle activities for the whole family!
* Featurettes:
o Get the inside scoop with
+ Behind the Crates
+ The Tech of Madagascar
+ Mad Mishaps
+ Crack the Code

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase packaging.

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