'Dreamworks' hit back with an animated tale about lovable zoo animals trying to escape to the wild. Always one step behind the mighty 'Pixar' this feature seemed to be an attempt to try and combat the ever increasing list of 'Pixar' classics that just kept on coming.
A curious blend of ideas really, the whole film is made to look quite sensible in terms of how things should look in reality. But there is a kind of Tex Avery/Chuck Jones feel to the main characters that is quite nice but also someone childish compared to the backgrounds and vista's we see. You then have the set up that the animals can all talk to each but not to humans, yet they can perform human acts without question.
The film slides from slightly emotional to sensible to most of the time outright off the wall. The plot is childishly simple naturally but it works OK, it actually gets a little twisted once 'Alex' the lion goes savage when his animal instinct kicks in. Problem is once the animals break out from New York the film becomes very average very quickly. Seeing how the animals live within their city dwelling was pretty good and made for some good clever laughs, nothing hilarious I might add but it worked.
The animals using the subway and at one point getting kicked in the nuts by an old lady does push the boundaries of even this fantasy. Unfortunately even that can't top the dreadful Lemurs they encounter on Madagascar, their leader for some reason given an Indian accent which is hideously unfunny.
The penguins were by far the best of the bunch for me as a small squad of military types led by 'Skipper' who sounds remarkably like 'Zap Brannigan' from 'futurama'. I can see why they got their own spin off. The rest of the animals are voiced well by a good team of big names but they aren't overly interesting really. Rock is plain annoying and that's the end of it, whilst Schwimmer is surprisingly well matched as the hypochondriac giraffe. Stiller does what he does in pretty much everything he's in, its fine.
Overall a very bright start but it just fades into a bland generic mess that includes a god awful hip hop sequence. The animation is fair, some smart visual gags here and there and the penguins are a great success but apart from that its all very meh. The impression I got was no one was sure which way they wanted to go with this film, so many alternative ideas colliding, bit of a mess.