Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

The sequel to the original ‘Madagascar’, ‘Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ actually opens some years previous to the first movie as the king of the Lion pride Zuba (the late Bernie Mac) is playing with his young lion cub Alekay. Zuba is slightly distracted as he is challenged, yet again, by the scurrilous Makunga (Alec Baldwin) for the top spot of the pride and in this brief moment of distraction Alekay is lured away by evil poachers, kidnapped, almost rescued by his frantic father but lost at sea eventually reappearing on the shores of New York to become Alex the dancing Lion (Ben Stiller) that we all have come to know and love.

Now we return back to where we left Alex, Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) at the last movie, on the island of the lemur king Julien (Sasha Baron Cohen). Somehow our crew has managed to get a hold of an airplane, which will be flown by our nautically challenged penguins, and with Julien and his right hand man Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) along for the ride, our team is heading back to New York City where they belong. At least in theory.

Though we love the penguins and we do admire their grit and honesty, we do realize that sometimes they tend to gloss over the details. Such as fuel in airplane in this case and now our team must make an emergency landing to parts unknown, though these parts are eerily familiar to Alex as he has that special sense of dejavu. Actually all of our principles are feeling quite at home as they have crash landed to the motherland of Africa, where it all originally started for most of them. Now Gloria can now get her groove on, surrounded by a plethora of big butt loving hippos.  Plus she can finally find a man, though Melman still possesses a secret love for the three ton miss.  Marty can run with thousands of virtual clones who look and sound just like him, even the females, and Alex is reunited with his father Zuba and his mother (Sherri Shepherd).

Unfortunately the duplicitous Makunga is still around and manages to trick Alex into participating in some silly right of passage, which if he fails, king Zuba must banish him. To the surprise of no one, Alex does fail as he tries to dance his way out of the fight bringing shame to his father who chooses to leave the pack instead of being forced to banish his son. Adding to the problems is the fact that the water hole on the reserve has dried up largely due to the shenanigans of the rather violent old lady Nana (Elisa Gabrieli) who you may remember abusing Alex from the last movie, Marty is suffering from identity issues and Melman thinks he’s terminally ill due to the brown spots all over his body. Well somebody needs to step up to the plate and make things right and that would be our dancing Lion Alex who shows the others that sometime you have to ‘move it’ to do it. Or something along those lines.

Personally I found this sequel to the original ‘Madagascar’ a marginally better film, though I gotta admit that’s probably not saying much since I though the first movie was a tad above mediocre at best. There was nothing particularly wrong with the first movie, just like there’s nothing particularly wrong with this movie. This version of Alex and his buddies are consistently amusing while never really being all out funny, the voice acting by the all-star cast is good if not great, the animation is certainly much better as one would expect from a CGI animated film with three years worth of computerized hardware and software advances to work with, and just like the first movie the best parts are probably those little segments outside the main narrative involving King Julien and The Penguins.

Though I thought ‘Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ was solid entertainment, it is interesting to go to a theater and watch the children around you to see their reaction to the movie since ultimately this movie is for them. On that level a lot of the kids in the theater that I was in were eerily quiet. There were times where I would laugh at something and they wouldn’t be laughing at all because apparently whatever the humorous situation was, they didn’t get it. And this happened on more than one occasion in this movie. Now when Alex shakes his butt or Nana kicked someone in the groin, oh yeah, the kids thought that was funny, but I don’t think they appreciated the erudite monkeys with the opposable thumbs. I don’t think they were all that amused by the hippo Moto Moto, smoothly voiced by Will I Am, and his courting sessions with Gloria, and it seemed as if they weren't really getting into Marty’s issues of self-realization… but then I could’ve been at the theater with a bunch stupid kids.

Again, there’s absolutely nothing wrong ‘Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ as it is a vividly animated, consistently amusing and a solidly entertaining piece of work. It’s just that because of the clowns over there at Pixar the bar for these types of movies is so darned high and the ‘Madagascar’ sequel just doesn’t quite reach those rather lofty heights.

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