Review of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa


Movie Reviews: "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"

-- Rating: PG
Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: November 7, 2008
Directed by: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
Genre: Animation, Action and Adventure

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is the sequel to "Madagascar," which told the story of four zoo animals who found themselves on an adventure in Madagascar. The movie, which features the voice talents of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith, follows the four main characters from "Madagascar" as they crash-land in Africa while trying to make their way home to New York City. The movie is a lively, entertaining romp for the whole family.

The story opens on the four animated stars from the first film: a lion named Alex (Ben Stiller), a zebra named Marty (Chris Rock), a giraffe called Melman (David Schwimmer) and a hippo named Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith). The four friends have decided to leave Madagascar and return to their zoo in New York City. They find an abandoned plane in the jungle and manage to get it running. Flying the plane with the help of a group of raucous penguins, the animals leave Madagascar for the long trip home.

En route, they have to make an unscheduled stop in Africa; this is not really a surprise, given the condition of the plane. There, the animals discover that they have landed in Alex's birthplace. They discover that Alex was torn from his family by evil hunters when he was just a young cub. In one dramatic scene, he meets his father, Zuba (Bernie Mac). For the rest of the film, Alex is forced to confront the life he lost as he builds a relationship with his long-lost father and mother (Sherri Shepherd).

After Alex's big discovery, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" splits into a number of separate plot lines. Although adults may find the stories hard to follow, the rapid plot changes will delight young viewers with shorter attention spans. In one storyline, the evil Makunga (Alec Baldwin) manages to get Alex banished from his ancestral home. In another, Melman is jealous of a hippo who competes with him for Gloria's attention. One particularly entertaining story follows Marty the zebra as he deals with how ordinary his appearance is among the other zebras on the savannah. Further plot lines involve a sacrifice to a volcano, a water shortage and a group of human tourists. Each story is engaging and entertaining, with a surplus of cartoonish gags.

While many animated sequels fall short of the originals in terms of plot and aesthetic, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" manages to hold its own. Although the movie has the same theme as its predecessor-zoo animals struggling to survive in the wild-it has a completely different look and feel. The animators chose a light, bright African savannah setting as a background that contrasts nicely with the thick, green jungle of the first movie, but "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" holds on to the fast-paced, joke-heavy style that made "Madagascar" a success. Like its predecessor, the movie is paced perfectly for young audiences, moving quickly from story to story and joke to joke.

The four main characters, voiced by an all-star case, are joined by a host of new characters. The film's directors, Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, use this fact to add a selection of distinctive and recognizable voices that lend depth and diversity to the story. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen plays Julien, the crazed lemur king, and other voice actors include Cedric the Entertainer as Maurice, Andy Richter as Mort and Will I Am as Moto Moto.

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is geared toward a younger audience but has plenty to entertain older viewers. The film's underlying themes touch on everything from unusual relationships to creating identity. One of the main conflicts in the film is Marty's struggle to maintain his individuality when surrounded by zebras that look and sound alike. Throughout the movie, he tries to find ways to belong to the group without sacrificing his unique identity. Another storyline attacks the issue of unconventional relationships. It follows the story of Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe, who are trying to maintain a bond in a community that does not support relationships between species.

Overall, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is a fast-moving, lovable film that will please both children and adults. The storyline is slightly darker than the first movie, but it is not too much for young viewers. The movie is not short of jokes, and the return of the crowd-pleasing penguins ensures a surplus of laugh-out-loud moments. The all-star cast delivers a masterful performance with a range of distinctive characters. "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is an ideal movie for a family night in or a kids' event.

Rating: 3 out of 5