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Don't visit 'Madagascar'

'The Longest Yard' offers laughs.

by and

ON THE BEACH: 'Madagascar' characters.
  • ON THE BEACH: 'Madagascar' characters.
OK, it’s official: post-modernism is dead. Though we’ve wondered when the final, hair-thin tendon keeping it from falling into the abyss would be severed, Warhol’s favorite genre was finally laid low by a kid’s film, “Madagascar.” Here’s how. Brace yourself. In “Madagascar,” DreamWorks Animation — which has sworn off pencil and paper animation after a string of stinkers including “Sinbad” — used million-dollar supercomputers to make a computer-generated film look like a hand-drawn Looney Tune of old. Irony isn’t something you make skillets out of, friends. In a way, the real absurdity here is that DreamWorks thought that all they had to do to turn a loser into a winner was swap their pens in for pixels. Here, comedian Chris Rock provides the voice for Marty, a Central Park Zoo zebra who longs for wide-open spaces. He’s the polar opposite of spotlight-grabbing lion Alex (Ben Stiller), hypochondriac giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer), and hippopotamus Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith, who seems to be on board just so they’d have a character they could market to girls). After Marty makes an escape attempt and his friends go after him, the four are captured and the decision is made to send them to an African wildlife preserve. On the way, however, trouble at sea sends their crates overboard, and they wash up on the island of Madagascar, where they soon meet a tribe of breakdancing lemurs and … well, not much else in the way of adventure, except when Alex gets hungry and tries to eat Marty. Cliched and corny, “Madagascar” often shoots for the in-jokes that make films by rival Pixar fun for both parent and child. The trouble is, their arrows usually fall uselessly in between — too young for oldsters, too old for youngsters. Too, because DreamWorks was striving to transmit the feel of 2-D into 3-D, the animation often falls somewhere in between as well, the characters looking flat and unfinished, like cardboard cutouts stood against fabulously rendered backdrops. In the end, it all comes down to your kid. Colorful and fast-paced, with characters who are likable even when they’re being forced to ladle on the “friends ’til the end” schmaltz, anyone below the age of 5 will probably like “Madagascar.” The problem is, you’ll have to sit through it too. — By David Koon Football silliness We’ve had Adam Sandler as a hockey player turned golfer, and Sandler as a waterboy turned vicious-hitting All-American college linebacker. So, why not the 5-foot-10 Sandler as a former NFL star quarterback and one-time most valuable player who was kicked out of the league for allegedly shaving points, his character in an updated version of “The Longest Yard”? Moviegoers could buy Burt Reynolds, who did the first turn as Paul Crewe in the original, which was released in 1974 and has had countless showings on TBS and the like. Reynolds had actually played college football before becoming an action star on TV and in the movies. Sandler’s ego is out of control if he and his movie-making cronies at whatever Happy Madison Films is (MTV Productions also was along for this ride) think anyone can buy Sandler as an NFL quarterback. Tom Brady he ain’t. That’s probably just the point: We’re not really supposed to buy any of this on face. It’s just farcical anyway that some prison warden (this time it’s the always-effective James Cromwell in the role of the sadistic warden that was handled previously by the late great Eddie Albert) has built a semi-pro team of prison guards and could arrange for this woebegone former pro quarterback, who steals and wrecks his girlfriend’s car in a drunken stupor, to be assigned to his prison. Warden Hazen just wants Crewe to offer the team some insights he’s learned from the pros. Of course, this one-time star is first greeted by a vicious prison guard and prison team quarterback, Capt. Knauer (William Fichtner), who beats the ever-living hell out of him to make sure Crewe won’t agree to anything the warden wants concerning football. Now, that makes sense: The quarterback of the prison semi-pro team doesn’t want to have a better season if it means cocceding more power with the cons to the warden. “I run this prison,” Knauer tells Crewe. Chances are, if you’re male and older than 18, you’ve seen this one before, at least on cable. We saw it in its original run, and though critics lambasted it, “The Longest Yard” was a fun frolic that fit the “guy movie” criteria in the same way those earlier war movies (“The Dirty Dozen” et al.) had. There are some updated scenes and some of the funnier plotlines from the original are fleshed out here. The writers apparently even expected many filmgoers to have seen the original, twisting a few scenes, including a crucial one involving Caretaker (Chris Rock). Rock, as he does in the animated “Madagascar,” brings most of the comic relief to this film as a convict who knows all the ins and outs and how to get what he wants — he even can get football shoes shipped in to the prison via a birthday cake. Sandler is funny when he wants to be, but just plain awful when the script gets a little serious. Nicholas Turturro and Bob Sapp, who play a couple of the prisoners, are hilarious. As with the original, “The Longest Yard” is an opportunity also for recognizable faces from the NFL and pro wrestling to have a little fun on screen. And Reynolds is even brought back for the key role of Nate Scarborough, a former college star winner now in his 70s who appears seemingly out of nowhere to help coach a team of convicts against the guards. If you’re not looking for anything except some escapist fare, this is it, as it offers plenty of laughs, maybe more than the original. Do the convicts beat the guards this time? What do you think? — By Jim Harris

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