Dir. Steve "spaz" Williams US, 2006, 82 mins
Cast: Kiefer Sutherland, Jim Belushi, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard
Review by Carol Allen
The story of this animated movie is dangerously close to last year's Madagascar. A group of animals from the fictitious New York zoo, led by Samson the Lion (Sutherland), set off across the ocean in pursuit of Samson's son (Greg Cipes), a bit of a problem adolescent, who has been mistakenly shipped off to the wild. It is, however, a more interesting film. The animation is softer, still convincing, but not the hyper reality of something like Shrek. Samson and his son, in particular, have the reassuring texture of cuddly toys. And the characters have more depth and life to them, and are more fun.
Sutherland, whom I still think of as Donald's little boy, sounds very mature and stuck in his metaphorical armchair as Samson, teller of tall tales about his fictional youth in the wild, who suddenly has to put his
roar where his mouth is and become a proper lion. Belushi plays Benny, a street-savvy squirrel and Samson's best friend, who thinks big when it comes to love, the gal he's after being Bridget (Garofalo), a sharp-tongued and quick-witted giraffe, who is physically, of course, a bit out of reach - a relationship which is inevitably a challenge. My particular favourite, though, is a koala bear called Nigel (Izzard). I am a great Izzard fan, and his characterisation is both witty and so camp in places that I suspect Izzard wrote some of his own lines. Such as when he is poncing about in a tutu type garment, asking his chums, "Do I look trashy in this?"
William Shatner is the voice of Kazar, the villainous and superstitious chief of the wildebeests, who wants to be king of the jungle and the hunter rather than the hunted. The sequence of the wildebeests' jungle ritual is a really impressive, rhythmic piece of animated choreography and one of the highlights of an overall superior score featuring artists such as Coldplay, Everlife, Lifehouse, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Eric Idle.
It's a fun film for kids - at the screening I went to there were very few trips to the loo, which is always a good sign - but there's also plenty of wit, both visual and verbal, for adults.
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