Madagascar – Blu-ray Review

Most movie lovers know of the the term “double-dip” when talking about movies being released on DVD. That’s when big movie studios and distributors love to release a basic (sometimes bare-bones) edition of a movie on DVD one year, and then a year or two later they will release the same movie on DVD but this time it’s loaded with lots of special features and slap “special edition” on the cover. There are a few reasons for this, besides just wanting to make more money. One such reason could be because there is a sequel to that first movie coming to theaters soon, and they want to remind people of the “greatness” of the first film. Of course, everyone knows that not every great film needs to have a sequel made. But usually they do get made, and sometimes even only slightly above-average films have sequels many years later.

However, now we have entered the new “high-definition” era of DVD. Blu-ray has basically won the war over HD-DVD as the next generation of home entertainment. That means all of your old favorite films will get rereleased in Blu-ray, and all of your new favorites will released in both regular and Blu-ray at the same time. But why would just an above-average animated film like DreamsWorks’ Madagascar just now be released on Blu-ray three years after it was originally released? Maybe because Madagascar 2: hits theaters this November. Welcome to the new era of the “high-definition double-dip”.

In Madagascar pampered zebra Marty (Chris Rock) has been living in the Central Park Zoo for all his life. One day he decides to explore the New York City outside of the zoo’s safe walls. When his buddies, vain lion Alex (Ben Stiller), straight-talking hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and neurotic giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer), go after him, their rescue mission goes wrong thanks to a group of penguins. As a result, the four friends get carted off to the untamed wilds of Africa.

The voice talent can often make or break an animated film, but in Madagascar, the voice talent does neither. It is what it is. Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett-Smith all do a good job as the four main characters, but they are really only bringing their personas to life in an animated animal character. As characters, they aren’t as likable as previous animated characters in other DreamWorks animated films like in Shrek for example. As a result, the supporting characters and voice talent often steal many scenes. Leading the strong supporting cast is Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien, the leader of the swinging group of lemurs on the island that our zoo friends get thrown onto. Even the group of SWAT-team penguins, who don’t speak a word, often upstages the core cast of characters.

The animation in this film looks great as expected. It seems to improve with each new DreamWorks film. But the majority of the comedy in here is strictly for kids. There are lots of clever pop-culture references that only adults will probably get, but they are fewer of those kinds of laughs than you would find in any Shrek film. Instead the comedy is mostly wacky slapstick that kids are sure to love. So if this film appeals to kids, there has to be a message to it right? Well not really. If you had to point out a message that can be learned from this film, it’s might be “friends come in all colors, shapes, and sizes”, but that notion gets lost halfway through the film when one “friend” wants to eat the another.
Overall, Madagascar is a confusing film. It doesn’t really preach a message for kids to learn, which is refreshing and could mean that this film is more for adults like Shrek. But the lack of clever pop-culture references and the comedy being mostly slapstick clearly makes this a film that kids will laugh at first before their parents.

Thankfully there are some great musical numbers that will keep the whole family entertained. It’s probably for that very reason that a sequel to this film was even made. Hopefully the voice cast will reach its true potential in that film unlike here, where all they seem to is just read their lines. In the end, Madagascar is a fun animated film, but it’s only average and it’s nowhere near the level of Shrek.

The video is presented in 1080p/AVC at the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. This transfer is fantasic. Everything looks crystal clear and the colors are vibrant and rich. The video is actually improved significantly on an already good looking standard DVD. No major complaints at all.

The audio included is available in either English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround sound, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear for sure, but the overall audio quality is not as good as the video quality. In addition, this audio is not much of an improvement over the original DVD release of this film. Still no major problems here either.

Blu-Ray Exclusives

The only exclusive extra on the Blu-Ray version of this film is an trivia track called “Mad Trivia Pop-Up”. You can watch the film with this feature on and little boxes will pop up onto the screen during specific scenes to give you information about making the film and other fun facts about the film.

Found on Standard Edition As Well…

Audio Commentary
There is a full-length commentary from the directors of the film, Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell. There is a lot of information given in this commentary, but there are some entertaining moments as well. About as enjoyable as you can get without featuring any of the voice cast.

“Penguin Chat”: Audio Commentary
In a separate audio commentary that runs for about 8 minutes, the penguins in the movie comment on the all scenes they appear. This is only mildly amusing as the commentary gets less interesting the longer it goes.

“Mad Mishaps”: Animation Bloopers
There is one and half minutes worth of animated bloopers from the film. Since these have to be created rather than just happen, these are less amusing for adults but will surely entertain kids.

“Behind the Crate” Featurette
This runs 23 minutes and it’s your typical “behind-the-scenes/ making-of” featurette. We get interviews with various members of the cast and crew about working on this film. Nothing too enlightening, but it does give more information on the film.

“Meet the Wild Cast” Featurette
This runs 7 minutes and it’s all about the voice talents that worked on the film. Again, another featurette that usually appears on every DVD release of an animated film. It’s cool to see the actors working on the film, but nothing you haven’t seen before.

“Tech of Madagascar” Featurette
This runs 5 minutes and it’s all about the CGI work on the film. See above.

“Enchanted Island” Featurette
This runs 8 minutes and it’s a little more unique and interesting than the previous three featurettes. This one talks all about the real island of “Madagascar” and how it fit into the movie. We hear comments from the cast and crew about this.

“Christmas Caper” Animated Short
This animated short runs 12 minutes and it stars the penguin characters from Madagascar.

“I Like to Move It, Move It” Music Video
Parents of kids won’t like this extra, since it will probably be played over and over again by their kids. But it is basically the main reason this film is getting a sequel so it has to be on here.

“Learn to Draw”: Interactive Activity
This is an interactive segment for kids where kids can learn to sketch the animals in the film.

Video Jukebox
Like every other DreamWorks release, there is a Video Jukebox of songs from this animated film as well as other DreamWorks animated films.

Madagascar is worth a rental, because it’s a fun animated film. But it is definitely not the greatest animated film around. It really shouldn’t have a sequel, but a couple of the music numbers worked so well in this film that it created a basis for the sequel. Not really recommended as a purchase, though.

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Dreamworks Studios Home Entertainment presents Madagascar. Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. Written by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath, Mark Burton, and Billy Frolick. Starring Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andy Richter. Running time: 86 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: September 23, 2008.
Available at Amazon.com