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Madagascar Print E-mail
Monday, 29 September 2008
ImageDreamWorks has done it again.  Their release of "Madagascar" marks another terrific film and Blu-ray transfer from the studio.  Their previous release of "Shrek the Third" is one of the best, if not the best, animated films on Blu-ray to date.

"Madagascar" brings a new type of quality to Blu-ray.  While not as advanced in animation as "Shrek the Third," "Madagascar" is very attractive.  Kids and adults alike can enjoy this film.

Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) is New York City Central Park Zoo's star attraction.  Only in an animated do you find a lion's best friends to be a hippo, giraffe, and zebra.  Marty (Chris Rock) is the zebra, a 10-year old that longs to get back to his roots and run in the wild.  Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) is the mother-like figure among the four, while Melman (David Schwimmer) is a sickly fellow, always receiving meds, MRIs and CAT-SCANs.  Unfortunately for Marty, none of his pals share his dream of being free in the wild.  Of course, let's not forget the military penguins that are digging their way to Antarctica.

On his tenth birthday, Marty wishes he could go to the wild.  Receiving information that it might be possible to take Grand Central Station to Connecticut (thinking it is the wild), Marty leaves in the middle of the night.  He friends set out after him sometime later.  The rescue culminates in some tranquilizer darts and a bunch of crates boarded on a ship on their way to Kenya Wildlife Preserve in Africa.  Being domesticated, and not knowing where they are, the four friends get thrown into the ocean, crashing landing on the shore of Madagascar. Convinced they have been transferred to the San Diego Zoo, the four follow sounds of music deep into the jungle, only to find a gathering of lemurs, led by King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen).  Living in the wild, Alex eventually becomes savage and begins to attack his friends.

Even with the numerous animated films about animals, "Madagascar" is able to retain individuality and uniqueness.  The story is original and simple to follow.  The voice talents are incredible, making good use of a great script.

The Blu-ray release of this film is presented in a 1080p/VC-1 encoding.  The video quality is about as good as it gets.  The vibrant colors leap off the screen.  In conjunction with great black levels, the image is brilliantly three-dimensional and rich.  While "Shrek the Third" had a 3D computer rendered look to it, "Madagascar" still retains the old-fashioned animated look.  There are no jaggies or edge enhancement issues.  The image is fluid with no evidence of compression or motion artifacts.

The audio quality is stable, but not nearly good enough.  Presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, the soundtrack is lacking cohesiveness.    The dialogue is clear and intelligible, but suffers from a lack in the low-range frequencies.  The LFE channel is not quite up to par.  The biggest disappointment is the lack of surround channel use.  This is not a flaw of the Blu-ray, as the DVD also suffered from a lack in discrete effects.  There is no more than a handful of discrete panning into the surround channels.  The soundtrack is consistent, but could use much more in terms of ambiences (especially being that the film takes place in a zoo and in a jungle).  The original film mix is lacking, but in terms of Blu-ray transferring, the audio track is strong.

DreamWorks has ported over all the special features from the standard DVD edition of the film, and in pleasant surprise, has upgraded many of the features to high definition.  First there is an audio commentary with directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. This is an interesting commentary, but can be skipped if time is a factor.  The "Penguins in a Christmas Caper" featurette is terrific and has been upgraded to HD.  "Mad Mishaps" is a collection of outtakes.  Still in standard definition are the featurettes "Meet the Wild Cast," "Behind the Crates," and "The Tech of Madagascar."  These featurettes are akin to making of sequences.  "Penguin Chat" is a secondary commentary by the voices of the military penguins. They provide an audio commentary over some of their sequences in the film.  This is also provided in HD.  "Enchanted Island" is an HD featurette that explores the real Madagascar.  The Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox is a collection of trailers.  The DreamWorks Kids' Center contains a music video for "I Like to Move It" and a section called "Learn How to Draw".  The latter section teaches you how to draw simple versions of the lead characters in the film.

Exclusive to Blu-ray is the Mad Trivia Pop-Up track.  This brings up trivia and fun facts during the playback of the film and is rather entertaining.

"Madagascar" is a terrific film, worthy of owning, especially on Blu-ray.  It was obviously successful as a sequel, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is about to be released in theaters.  Pick this Blu-ray release up and you will not be disappointed by DreamWorks attention to details.

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