"Madagascar 2" roars past its predecessor

Nov. 10, 2008, midnight | By Deepa Chellappa | 13 years, 6 months ago

Animated sequel keeps the silliness and steps up the heart

More often than not, sequels to animated films are stale and uninspired. For every magical "Toy Story 2," we must endure atrocities like "Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2." But "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is an uproariously funny movie that is emotionally and visually richer than its 2005 original. With sharp, breathtaking animation, "Madagascar 2" delivers lessons in friendship, individuality and community while boasting a plethora of boogieing animal tushies to keep kids hooked.

The sequel features even more fun, laughter and silly animals. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the smart-aleck zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the unfazed hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the paranoid giraffe (David Schwimmer) - the loveable stars of the Central Park Zoo - plan to fly back to Manhattan from Madagascar in a rickety plane, accompanied by their posse of thuggish penguins, the crazy lemur King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and snooty chimps Phil and Mason. After an inevitable crash-landing in Africa, Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman's friendships are tested as they begin to discover their roots in the midst of the animal kingdom.

Fans of the first "Madagascar" will find much to love in "Escape 2 Africa." For one, the animation is incredible and bursts with vivid detail, texture and color, bringing the watering holes and plains of Africa to life. From the ripples of Alex's mane to the detail of the plane construction's assembly line, computer animation admirers will not be disappointed. A stirring musical score adds a nice touch to the drama of the movie, complementing vibrant scenes of galloping herds of zebras and gazelles.

Directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath also make the clever decision to incorporate more mature humor into the film to keep parents awake, making the movie appropriate for a wide variety of age groups. Jokes about mortality, monkey unions demanding maternity leave, airport security and the Iraq war might soar over the booster-seat crowd, but the humor is witty and adds a sophisticated level of parody. Besides, the ever-captivating catchiness of the "I Like to Move It" song never fails to elicit dancing in seats from the younger age group.

The characters in animated movies are made real by their voices, and it is the supporting actors and actresses in "Madagascar 2" who bring the most energy to the animals. Schwimmer's voice is perfect for Melman, who mopes around depressed, sure that he has a terminal disease and won't live long enough to tell Gloria the hippo how he really feels about her. Cohen, who starred in "Borat" in 2006, is a riot. Whenever the plot seems to stagnate, King Julien comes onscreen and revitalizes interest with Cohen's heavily-accented and wildly entertaining voice.

Though "Madagascar 2" keeps the laughs coming, it does have one key flaw: many of the sub-plots are either under or overdone. Alex's father issues and the romantic relationship between Gloria and Melman are tired and the Julien-related volcano sacrifice is weird and out of place. Luckily, when these scenes start to get boring, all it takes is one of those wicked penguins to generate laughs and captivate the audience.

"Madagascar 2" will have everyone, from age three to 93, roaring. It is hilarious and touching, with enough giggles and moral values for everyone to warmly embrace this second round and wonder where our quirky animal pals will escape to next. Let's hope there's a penguin or four involved!

"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (88 minutes) is rated PG for some mild crude humor. Now playing everywhere.

Deepa Chellappa. The high point of Deepa's life thus far occurred when she waved to Mickey Mouse at a Disney World parade and he blew her a kiss in return. Needless to say, she hates Minnie with a passion. In her free time, Deepa can be found … More »

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