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Home arrow Movies arrow Madagascar

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Madagascar Print
Written by Mike Noel   
Friday, 17 June 2005
ImageLast week we did a family night and went to see Madagascar.  The film probably should have been named Mad-a-gag-me.  It wasn't very good.  The animation was late-90s at best.  The plot was -- well, what plot?  The story writers couldn't decide if the story was about the zebra or the lion.  The giraffe and hippo were side characters but they didn't really add anything.  The psycho penguins were just out of place.  More on that later though.
The movie starts in the Central Park Zoo.  From the animals' perspective it's a big stage show that they put on for the visitors each day.  The lion sees himself as the star in this show.  Every day he prepares for his performance and feel like he does his best to impress the kiddies.  The zebra, on the other hand, doesn't want to stay in the zoo anymore.  He dreams of being free and wild.  The lion loves it in the zoo and wants to stay.  Afterall, the animals are pampered to a huge degree (gourmet animal food each night).

After one particularly depressing day the Zebra decides to leave the zoo.  So he hops over the fence and heads into New York City.  The other animals discover he's gone and they also break out of the zoo and search around the city for him.  Eventually they all end up getting caught at Grand Central Station.  Because of the break-out the zoo decides to close (animal-rights activists shut it down because clearly the animals don't want to be there) and they decide to ship the animals to the San Diego Zoo.

Enter the psycho penguins.

These penguins think they are a para-military organization.  The break out of their boxes on the ocean cargo boat that is transporting all of the animals.  They attack the entire crew and take over control of the ship.  They turn the ship to head towards Antarctica instead of San Diego.  During the struggle for the ship the four boxes containing the four main animals get knocked off of the boat.  They float in the ocean for who knows how long and eventually end up on the beach in Madagascar.

Supposedly this is where the fun begins.  Now the zebra's dream has come true.  He is free in the wild.  He loves it.  But no one else does.  They all blame him for getting them kicked out of the zoo and then stranded in the wild.  The lion is the worst critic because now no one is seeing his show.  While exploring the jungle they find a group (or herd or bunch, I don't know what you call them) of lemmings.  Yes, lemmings in the middle of the Madagascar jungle.  And these lemmings are as dumb as lemmings.  The king lemming is the worst.  Very dumb.  He comes up with a plan to adopt the lion as a mascot to help scare away the predators who are chasing the lemmings.  This starts to tie into another one of the many disorganized plot elements.

When in the zoo the animals were fed each night.  The zebra, hippo, and giraffe are all vegetarian feeders.  The lion is a carnivore.  So in the jungle the zebra, hippo, and giraffe haven't had any problem eating.  But the lion doesn't know how to hunt or kill to get his own food.  So he hasn't eaten since they fell off the boat.  Now in the throws of starvation he starts to see all these animals, including his friends, as walking steaks (yes, they have drawings of steaks with legs walking around).  Eventually his desire to eat overcomes everything else and he starts to chase down and hunt his former friends.  At one point in the movie he jumps on the zebra and starts to take a big bite out of his tasty haunches.  But the hippo and giraffe knock him to the ground and they all get away.

The lion feels remorseful and realizes that he's not safe for his friends anymore.  So he leaves the others and isolates him self in a self-made cage.  The lemmings now realize how bad of an idea it is to have a lion for a friend so they try to get away.

The three main animals recognize that their friend is having problems so the zebra goes to find him and to try to convince him to rejoin the group.  Through a series of misfortunes the lion is found and convinced to join the group.  Of course, once he rejoins the group he tries to eat them again.  The others sit on him and get him calmed down.  Instead of leaving him they decide to help.  The lemmings decide to help too.  Finally the hungry-lion situation is resolved with the lemmings feed him sushi (yep, not just fish).  Apparently by eating sushi the lion, zebra, hippo, giraffe, and lemmings find a good compromise in order to stay in the wild together.

Then, after all of that conflict is resolved, the zebra announces that he's done being in the wild and since everyone else wants to be back at the zoo, he's willing to go back now.  They all agree to return.

Backing up a bit.

Eventually the psycho penguins beach the large ocean cargo ship on the shores in Antarctica.  They get off the boat and see the huge expanse of white desolation.  The leader says something like "This sucks" and then they get back on the boat.  Right about the time that the lion is learning to like fish the penguins drive up in the boat and beach it on the Madagascar beach right in front of the other animals.  The penguins decide to stay on the sunny beach.  Since the animals decided to go back to the zoo, they decide to use the boat to sail back to NYC.

As the movie ends one of the penguins asks if they should tell the animals that there's no fuel in the boat.  So apparently they aren't going anywhere.  Everyone is staying on Madagascar.

Ok.  So that was the convoluted plot.  Here's why I didn't think it had coherence.

First, is it about the lion or the zebra.  Let's say it's about the lion.  The we have the conflict that the lion is living a superficial life, probably hiding from his true nature.  Civilization has tamed him and made him safe to be around.  Then, when forced into the wild he can no longer suppress his nature.  He reverts to a wild meat eating creature.  But eating meat in the wild is bad -- he's trying to eat his friends. His wild, base nature is fundamentally wrong.  Once layers of civilization are stripped away we are left with the true nature.  In the end this is resolved by him learning to fake out nature.  Oddly enough, he does it with "sushi" -- not just fish.  Sushi is a more civilized way to eat fish.  So in the end the lion learns how to become civilized in the wild. 

If the story is about the lion then there was way too much time spent on the zebra and his conflict.

The zebra's story is like this.  He is trapped in the zoo but his heart yearns to be free and wild.  Back to nature.  The trappings of civilization are binding him and keeping him from his true potential.  Fate arranges circumstances so that he can be free.  Once in the wild he thrives.  He couldn't be happier.  Everything in the wild is just like he liked.  So the message here is that we need to be freed from the artificial layers of civilization that cover all of us.  Only then can we be truly free and happy.  Even in the middle of the hungry-lion issues the zebra is happy and cheerful.  He's just glad to be out.  Then, in the end, because he values his friendship with the lion he agrees instead to return to the zoo.  This is after the lion has figured out how to live in the wild.  The zebra is willing to give it all up for no reason. 

As you can see, the messages are mixed up and they conflict with each other.  The wild nature is good or bad.  It has to be civilized in order for people to be happy or civilization keeps people in bondage. 

Now, on top of all this the movie just wasn't funny.  The kids barely laughed at the gags.  The animals were dumb.  Too much emphasis was put into the antics of the lemmings.  We saw the same dumb actions over and over again.

By now I've written way too long on this.  Needless to say, I wasn't impressed.
Watch at your own peril.
Last Updated ( Friday, 17 June 2005 )

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