A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's some crude humor and sexual innuendo that will probably go over the youngest kids' head. The animals confront assorted dangerous situations, including an encounter with police, containment in crates (dark, closed spaces), a stormy sea and shipwreck, and, most alarmingly, a startling personality change in Alex, the lion, when he wants to eat his friends. There's a shooting with tranquilizer darts in which a character hallucinates to the tune of Sammy Davis Jr.'s song "Candyman" (younger viewers won't know this is about drugs, but the allusion is there). Gloria the hippo briefly appears with seaweed on her body, simulating "pasties" on breasts and crotch area. The lemurs are hunted by scary hyena-like creatures. A secondary plot has a crew of penguins acting like spies, which has them tunneling out of the zoo, knocking out a ship's captain, and stealing an ocean liner.
What's the story?
In MADAGASCAR, unhappy Central Park Zoo zebra Marty (voiced by Chris Rock) yearns for open spaces and herds of other zebras, but his zoo friends -- Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) -- are content. Alex is especially reluctant to leave, because he's pampered like a celebrity. Still, when Marty makes a break one night, they all follow to rescue him and end up getting caught by human authorities, who decide to ship the animals off. But the ship sinks, and the animals wash up on Madagascar, where the two central communities are the lemurs and the lemur-eating fossas. A crisis emerges when Alex gets hungry and begins to hallucinate that his friends are juicy steaks on legs, just before he roars and attacks them. When he realizes what he's doing, he's mortified, but his instincts are hard to repress. Eventually, the friends find a solution. They feed Alex sushi, leave the island "paradise," and resolve to return to some form of captivity.
Is it any good?
Madagascar is a cute idea about a journey that doesn't have a particularly compelling place to go -- but it's still fun. The subplot involving a group of almost maniacal penguins is particularly entertaining. The voice actors are fine overall, though as Melman the giraffe, Schwimmer basically plays his Friends character, Ross, as a cartoon. In the future, he might want to stretch out a bit further.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's portrayals of friendships and how friends can deal with their companions' different personalities. Did you relate to any of the friendships portrayed here?
Families can also discuss the film's use of cliches and stereotypes as jokes (the "island" music that characterizes the lemur community, the whiny hypochondriac, the fey lemur king). Why do movies use so many stereotypes? At what point do stereotypes do harm?
- In theaters: May 27, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2005
- Cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith
- Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Run time: 80 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language, crude humor and some thematic elements
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.