leave a comment --Angel Cohn
This slickly animated and cleverly written walk on the wild side explores what happens when caged animals break loose and get acquainted with nature. Upon the occasion of his 10th birthday, perplexed zebra Marty (voice of Chris Rock) realizes he's tired of the be-all and end-all of his world being a small pen in New York City's Central Park Zoo; a tantalizing mural of a wide-open field at which he stares daily only exacerbates his discontent. By contrast, Marty's best friend, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), is the zoo's star attraction and can't imagine why anyone would want to leave the world class accommodations. But after Marty catches wind of an escape plan the penguins are trying to execute, he hatches his own, decamping for the allegedly wide-open spaces of Connecticut by way of a train departing from Grand Central Terminal. Loyal pals Alex, hefty hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and neurotic giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) chase him down, but they're captured and wind up on a freighter to Kenya. Unwilling to accept their fate, the proactive penguins escape the cargo hold and attempt to reroute the ship to Antarctica. The wild ride that results knocks Marty, Melman, Gloria and Alex off the boat and they wash up on a Madagascar beach, which they wrongly take to be the San Diego Zoo. The urban animals fall in with a group of hard-partying lemurs led by King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen, TV's notorious Ali G) and start to get into the jungle boogie. But then Alex's predatory nature reasserts itself and the happy herbivores find themselves in the uncomfortable position of wondering whether his animal appetites spell "main course" for them. While not as heavily plot-driven as Dreamworks' SHREK (2001), SHREK 2 (2004) or SHARK TALE (2004), this endearing character piece offers animal high jinks for youngsters, plus pop culture humor and lushly composed animation for adults. The precocious penguins and Rock's zebra steal most of the laughs, but tiny tots are bound to love Mort (Andy Richter), the adorable, impossibly wide-eyed baby lemur, who often finds himself pressed into service as bait.