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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: Madagascar



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#1 of 8 Matt Stone

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Posted November 17 2005 - 11:57 AM

Posted Image
Madagascar
Directed By: Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath

Studio: DreamWorks
Year: 2005
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
Running Time: 1 Hr. 26 Mins.
Rating: PG (Mild Language, Crude Humor and Some Thematic Elements)
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital (English, French), 2.0 Dolby Digital (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, and Spanish
MSRP: $29.95
Street Date: 15 November, 2005

Review Date: 17 November, 2005
(Ratings are out of five stars)

Summary
First, let me start off by apologizing for getting this review out after the release date. I didn’t receive the DVD until street date, and haven’t had the chance to sit down and write this review until now. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get on with the movie…

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a little burnt out on animated films (especially of the CG variety), though I do still hold a special place for the Pixar films. DreamWorks hit it big with Shrek in 2001 and they’ve been a consistent competitor in the CG animation market since. Madagascar is their big entry this year. From a technical standpoint, the animation style is great, as is the sound design. The voice acting is very good, but the humor is a little hit and miss. The comparisons to Pixar movies are inevitable and I have to say that while this is far from a bad film, it’s not up to snuff with the competing studio. Despite the problems, there are some very funny elements of the film. The penguins featured in most of the commercials are hilarious. The monkeys are even better. Actually, now that I’m typing this, I realize that the secondary characters are almost all funnier than the main bunch. My favorite bits were probably the pop culture references sprinkled throughout the film. I won’t spoil them for you, but some of them had me cracking up.

The pacing isn’t as good as some other, better animated films. Once the story gets moving, it’s not too bad, but the opening section drags a big. The main cast features some solid names: Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and David Schwimmer. Even with those big names, the secondary characters carry most of the film. They seemed to have a lot more fun with it than the main characters. Sacha Baron Cohen (Ali G) especially stood out. What makes the Pixar animated films stand out is a strong, energetic narrative. No matter what’s going on, the story is always been moved along with care and expertise. Madagascar fails admirably with pockets of humor, but overall comes across fairly boring.

Based on talking to some people at work, I was expecting a better film. It’s possible that I would have had a little more fun watching it with some kids, but I stand by my statement that this film has a lot it could have improved on.

Film Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Video
The animation is very good. DreamWorks’ outstanding transfer is very three-dimensional and the reproduction on DVD is fantastic. I watched the film on my InFocus 4805 projector and took a closer look at it on my PC. I didn’t see any noticeable defects or artifacts in the transfer. Colors were clear and vibrant. Edges were crisp and sharp and the shadow detail was great in the darker scenes. A lot of the animal oriented shots looked cartoony (not a detriment), but some of the shots of the environment looked absolutely real. DreamWorks’ animation studio may not be as solid as Pixar’s (my opinion of course), but they sure as hell know how to release a great looking DVD. I haven’t had the chance to look at the recent Toy Story re-release (I hear it’s fantastic), but this is a reference quality CG animated transfer.

Video Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Audio
As expected the audio track is also top notch on the Madagascar DVD. The overall ambiance is good (especially during the second half of the film) but other than that the surrounds weren’t used all that much. The LFE was well balanced without being too overwhelming. This is definitely a very good audio track. That being said (and not to bring up the Pixar comparison again), I couldn’t stop thinking of how much better sounding The Incredibles DVD was. Don’t let that sway you, though. If you’re a fan, or just seeing it for the first time, Madagascar sounds (and looks) great.

Audio Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Extras
The Penguins in A Christmas Caper(12:10): If you like the penguins, you’ll like this short. I really wish the film could have had more of these guys.
Mad Mishaps(1:30): A very brief look at some errors during the animation process.
Meet the Wild Cast(7:46): Pretty self-explanatory here. Some brief introductions from the actors behind the main characters. It’s not long, but you get to learn a little bit about what the actors thought of their characters and the film.
Behind the Crates(23:15): A more in-depth look at the making of Madagascar. Cast and crew provide some more intricate details about the production of the film. This is a pretty conventional behind-the-scenes doc.
The Tech of Madagascar(4:59): Unlike the Cast and Behind the Scenes doc, this one tackles the technical details of making the film. Not unlike the other docs, this was pretty standardized, but a lot of the information was just as interesting.
Enchanted Island(7:50): A quick look at the real Madagascar. Looks like something that you might have seen in middle school Posted Image
Penguin Chat(8:42): A montage of all the Penguin scenes with a running commentary from the penguins (in-character).
Filmmaker Commentary: I didn’t get the chance to listen to the whole thing, but what I sampled seemed interesting. Directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell discussed the cast, the animation process, and other production details. I didn’t hear too much dead air during the sections I sampled. Might be worth a listen if you’re an animation fan.

The DVD also features a music video, games, previews, cast and filmmaker biographies, production notes and picture galleries.

Extras Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

In Closing…
With a sloppy narrative and episodic pacing, I just didn’t really care about what was going to happen next. I only seemed to perk up when the story cut away to some of the side stories (especially the Penguins and Lemurs). I may not have loved the film, but it’s definitely worth a rental. I’d especially recommend it as a family film. With no Pixar film this year, Madagascar may be the best alternative. If you’re a fan of the film, I recommend picking up the DVD. The extras are plentiful and extensive, and you’ll be very pleased with the A/V quality.

Overall Rating: Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

Matt Stone
17 November, 2005
In Heaven, everything is fine.
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#2 of 8 TonyD

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Posted November 17 2005 - 12:44 PM

i liked it.
the slow mo beach scene was really funny.

oddly walmart is selling 2 versions of the dvd.
same movie but the penguin short is both on and not on the dvd.
the not, on one, is included with an extra dvd that has some more penguin stuff.

i'd recommend a rental at least, especially for kids.

good review, spot on.

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#3 of 8 Bill Thomann

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Posted November 17 2005 - 12:53 PM

Although the packaging is different the Penguin short IS on the dvd packaged with a full screen version of the Penguin short. I'm sure Wal Mart didn't want people to realize that they get the Penguin short no matter what as some stores charge as much as $5 more for the 2 pack (& some charge the same for both or just a small amount more). I liked Madagascar & got it with the Wal Mart bonus disc since I had no use for Target's wrist bands, CC's alarm clock & don't have a BB to get the lithograph. Great review.

#4 of 8 TonyD

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Posted November 17 2005 - 01:11 PM

it didnt appear to me to be on the walmart 2 pack.
the 2pack madagasgar doesnt have the penguin banner on top and a quick look at the back i didnt notice the short listed.

i may have just over looked it.

seems odd they would offer a2pack with the same short on both dvds and the main selling point of the extra dvd is the short.

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#5 of 8 Robert Holloway

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Posted November 17 2005 - 04:10 PM

Nice review

BTW

Wallace and Gromit are a better Pixar alternative than Madagascar :-)

Rob
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#6 of 8 Shad R

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Posted November 18 2005 - 11:59 AM

I really liked the zany loony-tunes like humor. Tons of bonks on the head, falling over, getting smashed, having things thrown, falling off cliffs and such.
David Scwimmer is hilarious, and was my favorite charector. "I'm not going HMO!"

#7 of 8 Jim Smith

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Posted November 19 2005 - 05:54 AM

I thought this movie was hilarious and its on my Christmas list.

#8 of 8 Chris A H

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Posted November 19 2005 - 01:40 PM

Anyone having drop-out or tracking issues with their version? Mine stops, freezes, drops out audio, etc. Never had a bad DVD before, guess this is going back for replacement.