A short, yet amusing holiday special
Set before the days of Madagascar 3, so the animals are hanging out in Africa, the special brings together all of the usual suspects, and their voices (though Sasha Baron Cohen's King Julien is imitated by his non-feature film stand-in Danny Jacobs.) Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) was showered with adoration back in their New York City zoo, especially on Valentine's Day, when he was literally swimming in cards. Now in Africa, though he's writing plenty of valentines to his friends and fellow animals, he's not getting any, which leaves him bummed out. Meanwhile, Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) is trying to put together the perfect Valentine's for his new girlfriend Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), but his absences make her suspicious, and Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) is trying to stand out from the pack in attempting to woo a new okapi in town (Taraji P. Henson.)
Of course, it wouldn't be a Madagascar adventure without King Julien and the Penguins on board. Julien the lemur and his aide Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) have come up with a new scheme, as a bottle of "Love Potion No. 9" has fallen from the sky. Renaming himself as the King of Love, he promises to make any animal irresistible with his magic. However, he soon runs our, and calls upon the paramilitary penguins to mix up a new batch. They are a bit too good at the job though, and as a result the new potion really works, making Marty into the most desirable zebra on the plain, a situation that soon gets out of hand.
The penguins are consistently the most enjoyable part of Madagascar, and this special is no exception, as their serious plotting is contrasted by their cute appearances and their oft-ridiculous misadventures. Here, they find themselves on a mission to obtain materials for more potion, only to be drawn off-course by the contentious relationship between their leader, Skipper, and his new girlfriend, Hulu Girl (an inanimate bobble-head doll.) That explanation alone goes a long way toward explaining how silly their subplot is, and the interplay between the four mercenary birds is a big reason why the 22 minute special flies by, as they are far more entertaining than anything going on with the core four.
The Dolby Digita 5.1 soundtrack falls into a similar good-but-not-great zone, though it does feature some decent use of the surrounds to deliver sound effects and to pump up the music (notably during a brief montage to the classic and oft-used Robert Palmer track "Simply Irrestible.") Other than that, it keeps the dialogue crisp and clean in the center channel, though as you'd probably expect from a straight-to-video kids DVD, it's not the deepest range you'll hear at home.
Considering this is a Madagscar DVD, it's a bit odd that the extras are both related to Over the Hedge (and neither fits a Valentine's theme.) This time, Hammy's Boomerang Adventure (4:58) was a new short for Over the Hedge's 2006 DVD release (where it included commentary by the director that was unfortunately left out here.) Better than First Flight by a country mile, it features some very silly fun with Hammy, a manic squirrel, and includes the original voices from the film, namely Steve Carell, Bruce Willis and Gary Shandling.
The Bottom Line