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A view from the Blu (-ray) on DVDBeaver by Leonard Norwitz

 

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Madagascar [Blu-ray]

 

(Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath, 2005)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Dreamworks Animation SKG

Blu-ray: Dreamworks Animation SKG Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 86 minu

Chapters: 20

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Amaray Blu-ray case

Release date: September 23, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English 5.1 Dolby True HD: English, Spanish & Portuguese 5.1 DD

 

Subtitles:

English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

 

Extras:

• Commentary with Directors Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath

• Mad Trivia Pop-Up

• The Penguins in

• Mad Mishaps (1:30) in HD

• Penguin Chat (8:43) in HD

• Meet the Wild Cast (7:47) in SD

• Behind the Crates (23:16) in SD

• The Tech of Madagascar (4:59) in SD

• Enchanted Island (7:50) in SD

• Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox

 

 

The Film: 7
You can tell when a movie studio has made it into the consciousness of its public. Madagascar is touted "From the studio that brought you Shrek and Shark Tale" - not, mind you, "from Dreamworks Animation." Can you imagine a new animated feature from Walt Disney being advertised as "From the studio that brought you Cinderella and Lady and the Tramp!" You don't see that sort of language on the video boxes of The Lion King, The Little Mermaid or Mulan. On the other hand, Disney still felt it necessary to bring Ratatouille to everyone's attention with "From the creators of Cars and The Incredibles "– meaning Pixar, not Disney.

Pixar, of course, is Dreamworks Animation's number one competitor and, Oscars, aside, has to be recognized as the number one studio working today in 3-D computer animation. There are a number of interesting differences between the approaches of these two studios: the target audience for Dreamworks is younger and still have their heads in the toilet, and Pixar's imagery and storylines are far denser. More on this last a little later.

While Madagascar earned its keep eventually, it never had the success of a Shrek or Shrek 2. All the same, except maybe for one nagging point, it's pretty good family entertainment - that point being the question of diet – or, to put the matter in more political terms, what is or is not OK to eat?

The movie starts off in the Central Park Zoo where its star attractions, Alex the lion and Marty the zebra, are having a heady discussion about what's out there. Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller) is perfectly content being the king of his small, protected island where he is fed neatly trimmed steaks. Marty (Chris Rock) has other ideas and soon finds his way into the streets and byways of Manhattan, where Alex, together with his friends, Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) are in hot pursuit before Marty finds himself in big trouble.

Once caught, he quartet are transferred, not to another zoo as they imagine, but to the Kenya Wildlife preserve. But the penguins have plans to divert the giant cargo ship to Antarctica. In the melee, crates are dashed into the sea and our four friends are beachwrecked on what turns out to be Madagascar. Utterly clueless about how to survive in The Wild, they come across a tribe of lemurs and their mortal enemies, the foosa [sic] . . . which brings us to the question of diet.

No small part of the plot revolves around how our four novices will make do without being fed by people. As Alex begins to revert, he sees steaks everywhere, including the lemurs and, heaven forbid, Marty. Clearly, it is not OK to eat one's friend, but what about creatures you only just met (the lemurs) or their enemies. The filmmakers are on dangerous footing here, but solve the matter with a clever sleight of hand: evidently, it's not OK to eat creatures you've had conversations with, but steaks are not a problem. Could be a good jumping off point for a discussion with one's children about their food chain. Do you suppose anyone takes the hint?

 

 


Like Pixar, there is plenty of stuff here for the adults; and though Madagascar tends to rely on cultural references more than Pixar, thejokes are frequent and are generally worth a smile or a LOL, such as when Marty hustles down the sidewalk, a la John Travolta, to the music of Saturday Night Fever. I might add that I think Ben Stiller has finally found a role that allows him to stretch, demonstrating talents never before seen. Could be the start of something for him. Sacha Baron Cohen was outstanding as King Julien the lemur.


 

Image: 9/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Compared to Pixar, Dreamworks has never been big on backgrounds, though the Dreamworks animators certainly put considerably more effort in this department than Blue Sky's Ice Age. The scenes at the zoo are curiously two-dimensional, until we realize the intention is probably to contrast that experience to the wild as our heroes get further from the zoo and closer to nature. Also, unlike Pixar, there is never a real effort in this movie to integrate mass and its effects. The animals always feel more like cut-outs, unlike Shrek, as if rendered from a children's book.

The blu-ray does an excellent job at maintaining saturation, contrast, edge definition and great looking blacks, though not as sharp as the best animation I've seen in high def. One of the sequences that shows off the best this movie has to offer is the scene at Grand Central Station where our quartet is apprehended by an oversized tactical unit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/7
The 5.1 Dolby True improves on the DVD 5.1 mix, but there's not all that much there to start with. Even ambiance, which could have suggested the size and texture of the jungle canopy, compared to what was possible and expected (by me anyhow), are not all that much in evidence.

 

 

 

Operations: 8
Couldn't be easier, though the fonts were small so as to fit all those extra features on a single screen.

 

Extras: 6
The extras from the DVD are imported over to the blu-ray. These include a detailed commentary by the film's two directors about production details and voice characters, several kid-targeted featurettes (my favorite being the Penguins in A Christmas Caper), and a few more bits about production, the least good of which is "The Tech of Madagascar." "Enchanted Island" – unhappily in only fair SD – is worthy to learn more about the real Madagascar and how it fit into the movie.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
Pretty good fun for the kids, along with contemporary gags for the adults. The blu-ray image is very good, the sound good enough, but not top drawer.

 

Leonard Norwitz
September 20, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

    

 





 

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