Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for some mild crude humor
Running time: 89 min
Cast (voices): Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Baldwin, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Bernie Mac, Sherry Shepherd, Will i Am
Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Screenplay: Etan Cohen
Review published November 22, 2008
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa finds the displaced New York Zoo animal heroes from the first film - Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller, The Heartbreak Kid), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock, Bee Movie), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer, Six Days Seven Nights), and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith, Reign Over Me) - enjoying the surroundings of their lush African island while preparing for a hopeful return to their home in Central Park. A return is complicated, but a nearby crashed airplane raises their hopes, and the penguin flock sets about to repair the damage and get the plane ready for the return trip.
On the way back, they discover they aren't quite as aeronautically savvy as previously thought, and they end up crash landing themselves in the mainland African plains in a wildlife reserve. This pits them against real-life wild animals to fend for themselves. It is there that Alex reunites with his long-lost parents, and must try to achieve honor to the family tradition by following the same rite of passage that so many of his ancestors have done before. Trouble is, he is so domesticated, proving his jungle worthiness is a task almost too insurmountable for the nebbish lion.
This second entry is a relatively simple review. If you enjoyed the first Madagascar film, there is a high chance you'll enjoy this just as much for the same reasons. If you didn't, you'll likely continue to be perplexed, also for the same reasons. Though energetic and cute to a large degree, I had not been very impressed with the first film, and this second proves to have the same strengths and weaknesses, resulting in an identical reaction. It doesn't play as young as the first, as there is a somewhat darker elements to the storyline, similar to, but not nearly as dark as The Lion King. You'll probably enjoy the kooky side characters, like the all-popular penguin commandos, and some of the robust voice work by Sacha Baron Cohen (Sweeney Todd, Borat) - mostly riffing like Robin Williams - Alec Baldwin (The Good Shepherd, Running with Scissors) and Cedric the Entertainer (Code Name: The Cleaner, The Honeymooners). It's a film of small cute moments within the context of a grandly boring plot. How much entertainment you derive comes from how much of the small things you find amusing enough to overlook the rest.
The Madagascar films give the tongue-in-cheek vibe of the Shrek series without the quality gags. Mildly crass humor, cheesy pop songs, and sticky sentimentality are the best one can hope for in the humor department, but these moments are independent of the main story and momentum isn't achieved for long. Perhaps if you enjoy the simple pleasures of adorable anthropomorphic animals interacting with each other in equally adorable ways, you'll get enough mileage out of this vehicle to bring you home. If you're expecting quality story telling, you're looking in the wrong jungle.
©2008 Vince Leo