Release Date:  May 27, 2005
Rating:  PG (for mild language, crude humor and some thematic elements)
Genre:  Adventure/Animation
Run Time:  87 min.
Director:  Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath
Actors:  Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer,

Life’s a jungle – and no one knows it better than New Yorkers.

Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippopotamus (Jada Pinkett Smith) are four doggone lucky mammals.  Pampered and admired by New Yorkers and tourists, they live a life of luxury at the Central Park Zoo.  Alex poses and roars for the crowds, only to be rewarded with steak every night.  Marty, his best friend, frolics for zoo visitors, while Melman, an incurable hypochondriac, delights in visit after visit from his doctors.  Meanwhile Gloria, the lone female of the foursome, mothers them all.

When Marty’s 10th birthday rolls around, his friends try and talk him out of the fantastical idea that life in the wild – something he dreams about, to the tune of “Born Free” – could be better.  But Marty wants to learn for himself, so when the penguins make a break for it, leaving behind a tunnel, Marty takes off.  Alex, Gloria and Melman follow, hoping to bring him home.

Soon, the animals find themselves surrounded by police at Grand Central Station.  But when the activists get involved, they’re all shipped off to Africa, along with the penguins, who are none too happy about that destination.  It’s Antarctica they want, so the four webfooted friends make another break.  They take over the ship, turn it 180 degrees and head north.  During the hairpin curve, however, four large crates fly overboard, stranding Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria on a beach in Madagascar.  It’s not New York in the least, so can they survive?  And what in the world are those crazy squirrel-looking animals?

Inspired by the old-fashioned cartoons of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, which hark back to the '30s and '40s, the artistic minds at DreamWorks Animation have shown us just how far animation has come during the last few decades.  The buildings of New York are incredibly realistic looking, as are the fauna and flora of Madagascar.  The animals create shadows, run into spider webs and have amazingly life-like facial expressions.  Alex’s mane ruffles in the wind and becomes frizzy from the jungle humidity.  It’s all a sight to behold.

The DreamWorks team is also known for its references to pop culture – primarily as a way of reaching adult audiences in children’s films – and this is no exception.  Alex talks to a face-painted soccer ball named “Spalding” (reminding us of “Castaway”) and an age-appropriate soundtrack (except for an opening scene where a hippo dances to the music of “The Stripper’s Song”) are just a few.  Fortunately, we have no cross-dressers, or gingerbread men saying “Eat me,” which we were subjected to in “Shrek 2” and “Shrek.”  We also have a much more appropriate storyline for children (unlike “Shark Tale,” with its mobster message and gay agenda).  We get the usual scatological (“potty”) humor about flatulence and bathroom habits – a rather disgusting addition to children’s films that Hollywood can’t seem to get away from – along with one or two mild obscenities, but thankfully, no sexual references.