Talking animals from a New York zoo leave the comfortable confines of their familiar urban existence and wind up in an exotic foreign land, where they traipse through tall trees, cheekily joke with each other, face their fears and, in the process, become better people. Er, creatures. Sounds familiar, you say? You saw it already — when it was called ‘‘Madagascar?’’ Well you’ll be forgiven for confusing Disney’s ‘‘The Wild’’ with last year’s all-star animated escapade from Dreamworks. They are essentially the same picture, separated by 11 months and one dimension. Whereas ‘‘Madagascar’’ was decidedly old school in its visual approach (a slapsticky style known as squash and stretch, reminiscent of the Looney Tunes cartoons), ‘‘The Wild’’ is obsessive in its realistic, three-dimensional details. You can see every hair on Samson the Lion’s regal mane, see the sunlight glistening off his whiskers; yet he looks so obviously synthetic, if you could reach out and touch him, he’d probably feel like something sitting atop a Rose Parade float. But because the two films are so similar structurally and thematically, and because they’ve been released so close to each other, ‘‘The Wild’’ comes off as a toothless retread, even though it supposedly has been in the works for nine years. At least the script, credited to a team of four, isn’t as chock full of pop-culture references as ‘‘Madagascar’’ and so many other computer-animated films, like the ‘‘Shrek’’ movies, ‘‘Shark Tale’’ and ‘‘Hoodwinked.’’ Samson (richly voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) and his buddies — Benny the Squirrel (Jim Belushi), Larry the snake (Richard Kind) and Bridget the giraffe (the 5-foot-1 Janeane Garofalo, how’s THAT for irony?) — joke about finding ‘‘bling’’ in the trash cans, and a couple of moronic Bill-and-Ted type characters are fond of the words ‘‘dude’’ and ‘‘busted.’’ During the animals’ after-hours curling matches, longtime Canadian hockey announcer Don Cherry provides the voice of their penguin master of ceremonies, a nice touch. But it’s not like these guys are dancing around like the Pussycat Dolls — or making fun of ‘‘24,’’ which would have been an easy, cutesy thing to do with Sutherland at the helm. A couple of lines do bring Jack Bauer to mind, though, especially as Samson tries to rescue his cub, Ryan (Greg Cipes), who’s been accidentally shipped off to Africa: ‘‘Just tell me where the green boxes go,’’ he demands of a fellow zoo dweller. And later: ‘‘This is now a rescue mission and I am the only one going.’’ Of course he’s not. Like the adventures in ‘‘Madagascar’’ — voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith — the journey to ‘‘The Wild’’ is all about friendship and teamwork, which makes it suitable for the kids in the audience, as does the frantic, shrill tenor of this first feature from director Steve ‘‘Spaz’’ Williams. (He came with the nickname, we didn’t give it to him, but judging by the film’s incessantly high energy, it fits.) Stealing every scene he’s in, though, and giving this feel-good film some much-needed edge, is Eddie Izzard, providing the voice of a bad-boy British koala named Nigel. He’s desperately trying to live down the cuddly image perpetuated by the talking plush toys that bear his likeness at the zoo gift shop, and he comes off as a subversive, furrier version of Dudley Moore. Once the group reaches Africa, though, Nigel finds he’s an unlikely idol to the natives — a pack of wildebeests led by the choreography-happy Kazar, voiced with typical total seriousness by William Shatner. ‘‘At long last the cosmic balance has shifted!’’ Shatner’s intones menacingly as he seeks control of both the food chain and his chorus line. As far as computer animated films go, though, things have barely budged an inch. ‘‘The Wild,’’ a Walt Disney Pictures release, is rated G. Running time: 85 minutes. Two stars out of four.