Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippo discover that it's a jungle out there when they escape from the Central Park Zoo and end up on an exotic African island.
Animals rule in this wild, computer-animated comedy from DreamWorks. The movie is definitely character-driven, but luckily all the characters--from the self-absorbed lion to the lunatic lemurs--are absolutely irresistible.
The movie is colorful and lively and there's nothing objectionable for babies and toddlers, but they won't be able to follow the story or understand many of the jokes, like Alex putting Melman's rectal thermometer in his mouth or Melman enjoying a toilet sanitizer as a mint.
Kids in this age group love animals and will definitely want to see it. Although the humor will most likely go over young kids' heads, the scary moments probably won't. Preschoolers may be upset when the animals are shot with tranquilizer darts and when they find themselves locked in crates on a freight ship. They may be especially frightened when the quartet ends up on the predator side of the island, where the philosophy seems to be "eat or be eaten." For better or worse, they'll enjoy all the scatological humor. Kindergarteners will find it hysterical that Alex sleeps with his thumb in his mouth, and that the zoo pampers the animals with spa treatments and steak served on silver platters.
Older kids may actually be the ones who enjoy this fast-paced movie the most. They'll be fascinated by the fact that after a couple of days in the wild, Alex begins to imagine Marty as dinner. They'll also appreciate his discipline as he tries to avoid his natural instinct to eat his closest pal, and will cheer the fact that his heart is even bigger than his stomach.
Although the movie is really intended for younger viewers, there are so many funny moments and so much snappy dialogue, tweens may find themselves surprisingly involved. They'll find it funny when the lemurs dub the foursome "the New York Giants" and when part of the "p" in Alex's "HELP" sign falls down, turning it into "HELL." They'll laugh when a penguin calls Marty "my monochromatic friend" and when Melman reveals his hypochondria.