Roaring Laughs in 'Madagascar'

May 27, 2005 -- -- This is a movie critics dream, at least for this movie critic. We've got a Chris Rock double feature this week. OK, I'm a fan. But I'm also a critic and these are funny movies. And it's not just Rock. He stars with great comedy casts in both films.

Madagascar

Ben Stiller is the King of New York, at least at New York's Central Park Zoo, where he has lived his entire life in blissful captivity with his buddies, a hyperactive zebra (Rock) a hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer), and a diva of a hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith).

How do you think Smith's agent broke the news to her: "They want you to play a hippo"?

The penguins lead the breakout. My favorite joke so far this year comes when Melman the giraffe checks out the men's room at the Columbus Circle subway station. "Great sinks," he says. "And look ... a mint!"

When they get to Grand Central Station, they learn what every New Yorker knows: It's a jungle out there. They end up on a freighter, and get thrown overboard. Don't ask how this happens. Blame it on the title of the movie. There's got to be some way to get them to Madagascar.

And what happens when four New Yorkers end up in the real jungle? We get great gags with great graphics. It's fine for kids and even funnier, I think, for grownups. "Madagascar" is going to be this summer's "Shrek." Even when the story loses steam, the jokes don't. Grade: B

The Longest Yard

Rock and Adam Sandler recruit a team of convicts to play the guards in this remake that is better and funnier than the 1974 original in every frame. Nelly's here, and Burt Reynolds is back.

It surprised me how funny this movie is, and I saw it twice. Rock and Sandler have been friends for 20 years, and it shows in the timing, in the trust, in how much fun they have in every scene they have together. I told them I was going to call them the best movie couple since Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. And they started to argue about which one was Hepburn. Grade: B+

Sneak Peak: Cinderella Man

"Cinderella Man" opens next week, and for this two-word title I have a two-word review: Oscar time.

Russell Crowe plays underdog boxer James J. Braddock, who beat heavyweight champ Max Baer in a 15-round slugfest in 1935. But it's not a boxing story. It's a story about family. The studio is offering sneak peaks at select theaters Saturday night. It knocked me out. It'll knock you out, too.

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