Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) dir. Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Featuring Voices by: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett-Smith
Those wacky animals from the Bronx Zoo are back. When we left the last movie, Ben Stiller’s Alex the Lion, Chris Rock’s Marty the Zebra, David Schwimmer’s Melman the Giraffe and all the others were stranded on the African island, still hoping to get back to New York. In this adventure the bunch get stranded in mainland Africa for more fish out of water hijinks. While the first film offered a decent amount of laughs and giggles the well has likely run dry for the theatrical franchise.
In the opening we see a flashback to Alex’s brief life in Africa with his father, Zuba (voiced by the late Bernie Mac) and his eventual kidnap and placement in the Bronx zoo. In the present the four animal heroes – Lion, Zebra, Giraffe and Hippo (Jade Pinkett-Smith) – resurrect an old plane to be piloted by those shifty penguins in hopes of flying it back to New York. It makes for a fun sequence when the makeshift plane fails and plummets onto the mainland African plains in front of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Alex soon encounters his father again, thus reuniting his family. But Alex’s New York upbringing means he can’t adapt to the traditions of the African lion. He loses a fight for pride supremacy forcing his father to relinquish his title as King of the Lions. In banishment Alex and his pals decide to leave the sanctuary of the plains for the unprotected lands to find out why the riverbed has dried up. Naturally an ecological subtext is peppered into the comedy and family-values.
Interesting, knowing Etan Cohen, the comedically irresponsible co-scribe of “Tropic Thunder”, was the writer of this sequel my hopes were up that similar risks would be taken with the talking-animals genre. Instead it all feels stale and repetitive.
I remember the entry of those lemur creatures in the first film set to Reel2Reel’s dance number “I Like to Move it” was a pleasantly ironic bit of schmaltz. When the movie repeats it early in the opening act of this film it just feels overplayed. And the best characters of the first film – the conniving Penguins spies – have no gas or comic energy.
At $179million domestic gross, it’s a respectable success for a CG Animated film. So we may see a third one come along in a couple of years – or, at the very least, a straight-to-video knock off. In fact, there’s already a movie just with the Penguins released in conjunction with this sequel.
“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment. The Blu-Ray edition, other than the stunning CG clarity, includes more footage of the penguins, music videos and host of other kids games all in high-definition.