Madagascar [2005]

The penguins steal the show. In the sprightly Madagascar, a mid-life crisis inspires Marty the Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) to escape from his lifelong home, a New York zoo. His equally pampered friends--Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer)--then escape to bring him back. Unfortunately, their attempt at damage control persuades zoo officials that the animals are unhappy, so all four get shipped to an animal preserve in Kenya...only a squad of maniacal penguins change the destination to Antarctica. The quartet end up on an island where, in addition to meeting some hedonistic lemurs, they learn about the food chain--and that Alex is a different link on the chain from the other three. Madagascar doesn't achieve the snappy perfection of a Pixar movie, but it tops most other computer-animated efforts; the collision of friendship and predator instincts makes for an unusually gripping conflict. The vocal performances of the central characters is serviceable, but Sacha Baron Cohen (Da Ali G Show) provides topnotch lunacy as the lemur king, and the penguins--voiced mostly by the animators themselves--are the best thing in the movie. --Bret Fetzer

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