A Moral for the Madagascar DVD

Being a parent forces me look for the message behind a movie. Pixar movies consistently support themes of friendship, family, and individuality while DreamWorks movies like Shrek 2 have disappointed with decidedly weak messages further compromised by sexual innuendo (do we really need Pinocchio to talk about a thong?).

So it was with some uneasiness that my family went to see Madagascar at the local theatre last year. By the time the final credits rolled I was relieved by not having to field any “thong” questions, but I wasn’t impressed. Despite looking I couldn’t really find any strong message, good or bad.

Fast forward to Christmas 2005. As part of the Christmas festivities at the Morehead household, my children were gifted with a copy of the Madagascar DVD which has now been watched, listened to (while I drove the car), imitated, and repeated more times that I care to try to explain.

After repeated viewings I can now say:

  • The movie is more enjoyable that I originally thought, even after repeated viewings.
  • I like the penguins — probably a little too much (I only realized this as I blurted out that they “Aren’t creepy!” at an extended family gathering).
  • Baron Cohen’s (better know for the Ali G television show) performance as King Julian the Lemur probably saves the movie from mediocrity.
  • Even though it is hard to find, it has a moral after all, and it is a good one.

So what is the moral? To fully appreciate it, I have to recommend the Christian book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul by John Eldredge. Wild at Heart‘s thesis is that the two extreme’s are often seen in men’s behavior: the ‘nice guy’ and the ‘macho man’. Neither extreme is healthy; instead Mr. Eldredge proposes “authentic masculinity”, big words that are better summed up as “good dangerous”. Being “good dangerous” is not being macho or wimpy, but having a solid passionate core that is willing to take risks for that which is truly meaningful. This is what the title calls “Wild at Heart”.

And “Wild at Heart” would also be a fitting subtitle for Madagascar. At the beginning of the movie Alex the Lion looks macho to the citizens of New York, but he is really living a shallow, passive, actor’s existence being careful to “never bite the hand that feeds you.” Once thrown into the wild, Alex must confront his fundamental carnivorous nature. This confrontation jolts Alex from passivity into the opposite extreme of being overwhelmed by his appetite. The climax of the movie is when Alex harness his wildness by being “good dangerous”; feared and respected by his enemies, but loving toward his friends.

This is a message I support. All men, young and old, need both the passion and the discipline to be “good dangerous”.

I only wish the message were told more clearly.