The only thing this week’s two big releases have in common is Chris Rock. Scratch that; "Madagascar" and "The Longest Yard" are both about living things behind bars seeking emotional transcendence. Will either of them stage a daring escape from critical derision?
"Madagascar," the latest offering from the animation department at DreamWorks, is that studio’s second straight release to garner a decidedly mixed critical response (the last one, "Shark Tale," posted a paltry 35 percent on the Tomatometer; this one’s at 46 percent). The story involves four zoo animals who wind up back in the wild; some of the animals liked the zoo (and the attention of the kids) just fine, but others yearn for freedom. Featuring the vocal talents of Rock, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith, critics say "Madagascar" is more antic than resonant, with too many gags and too little story. But some say the film is irrepressibly good-natured, and in these cynical times there are worse things to be.
Another week, another remake: "The Longest Yard," starring Adam Sandler and Rock, updates Robert Aldrich’s 1974 football favorite (which scored an 89 percent on the Tomatometer) about a ragtag bunch of inmates who play the guards for bragging rights at the state pen. But while the original had a certain antiauthoritarian streak that made it ring true in its post-Watergate social climate, critics say this "Yard" is about as sharp as a pass tossed by a defensive lineman. It scores a moldy 31 percent on the Tomatometer. Despite being one of the funniest people alive, Chris Rock’s average Tomatometer score is, at a paltry 46 percent, decidedly lower than his average laff-o-meter.