Directed by: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Written by:Mark Burton, Billy Frolick, Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Starring: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer
Released: June 16, 2005
Grade: B-

Each year, there’s always some hyped-up television show that grabs a big audience in its first season.  This year’s examples would have to be Lost and Desperate Housewives.  People make sure they’re home so they never miss an episode.

As the show ages though, the writers start running out of ideas and the audience dries up.  It becomes one of those shows you’ll watch if there’s nothing else on.  It’s unlikely though because you’ve probably transfixed by the latest sitcom / reality show emanating from the States.

I use this analogy because it best sums up my feelings regarding computer animated movies.  I’ve said this before but when the concept was fresh and new, there were some really great animated flicks.  I speak of films such as Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Antz, Chicken Run and A Bug’s Life.

Nowadays, the well has dried up.  Talented computer technicians are working overtime to churn them out but the writers have gone on permanent vacation.  What’s annoying is that I understand why they have become so slack.  Just let me humour you for a moment…

Every school holidays there is usually one big animated blockbuster.  If kids are old enough to understand, they’ll see one of the ten thousand television advertisements and nag their parents to take them.  If they’re not old enough, the parents will see these same ads and take the kids along to get them out of the house.  My point is that it doesn’t make a difference whether the film’s any good or not.  The kids are going to roll up and down the aisle (as they did in my cinema) or yell a lot.  The adults will try to keep the kids under the control or otherwise sit there looking disinterested.

Now I could review this from the point of view of a 6-year-old.  If so, I’d be saying “yaaaaaay” and spilling coke and popcorn all over the place whilst constantly kicking the seat in front of me.  Unfortunately for us all, my brain is more developed.  What I see on screen is a very limited screenplay.  It’s a 15 minute concept which Dreamworks have foolishly tried to extend into a full length motion picture.

The flimsy premise is that four animals at New York’s Central Park Zoo try to escape.  They are a lion (Stiller), a zebra (Rock), a giraffe (Schwimmer) and a hippo (Smith).  They are captured and shipped off to Africa.  Their boat though is hijacked by a quartet of killer penguins and they end up being washed up on a strange beach.  After a short freak out, they befriend an army of lemurs, do some bonding and live happily ever after.  I’m sure there’s a message in there somewhere too.  The only time I laughed was the short scene where the penguins arrive at Antarctica.

With the exception of The Incredibles, the focus of animation is now marketing over substance.  Kids may be still having a good time but there’s less and less intelligent humour for adults.  We deserve better.