Dreamworks' new CGI film Madagascar is a middling effort. It's main intent was to be a fun movie, but not as wacky or topical as Shrek and Shrek 2 were. There is no great moral lesson, aside from the fact that friends are good. The animation, especially on the island of Madagascar is going for a retro, cartoony look, so the film isn't pushing any boundaries. The result is that overall, the film feels thin in nearly all respects. Yes, this is merely a chance to trot out a bunch of famous actors (primarily Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, and David Schwimmer), give them voice over roles, and let the money flow in. Well, it didn't work with Shark Tale, and it won't work here.

Madagascar takes too long to get to its point. The story, by Mark Burton and Billy Frolick (It Is What It Is) is deceptively simple. Animals from the New York Zoo mistakenly end up on the island of Madagascar. It would probably work a lot better as a short film, as it takes nearly an hour before the animals make it to the island. Directors Eric Darnell (Antz) and Tom McGrath instead spend a lot of time setting up the story. Marty the Zebra (voiced by Rock, The Longest Yard, Paparazzi) yearns for the wild, unlike the other animals. Alex the Lion (voiced by Stiller, Meet the Fockers, Anchorman) is comfortable as the main zoo attraction. He loves performing for the people, and the constant supply of steaks. Melman the Giraffe (voiced by Schwimmer, Hotel, Love and Sex), and Gloria the Hippo (voiced by Pinkett Smith, Collateral, The Matrix Revolutions) is the voice of reason.

A failed escape attempt lands them on a freighter to Kenya. They are sidetracked to Madagascar, where the joke is they have no idea how to live in the wild. They stumble upon a group of party happy lemurs (whose leader is voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen aka Ali G.), and eventually begin to deal with the real predator/prey rules of the jungle. There are also a group of gangster-like penguins that appear occasionally. The characters are colorful, but a bit on the bland side, which goes for the entire movie. Madagascar looks gorgeous. It is bright and colorful, but behind the flashy colors, there is little going on. There is little emotional depth to the characters, so there's no reason to care about them. In addition, for a movie that wants to be an all-out comedy, the jokes and gags are pretty tame. It's enough to make people smile, but not enough to make them laugh.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Rated PG for mild language, crude humor, and some thematic elements.

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