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Madagascar - Escape 2 Africa (Widescreen) (2008)

Animated movie directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

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Though Quite Different, More of the Same

  • Oct 3, 2010

In the event that you missed my review of the first Madagascar (gasps), allow me to summarize the bottom line: It was funny and it was pretty.  It could have been funnier and it could have been a lot funnier but it was pretty.  It earned its 3.5 star score the old fashioned way even if my own elevated expectations resulted in a bit of disappointment.

Fortunately the powers-that-be saw enough potential in the zoo escapee quartet to warrant a sequel (and actually a weekly Penguins spin off on Nickelodeon shortly thereafter).  I can start by cutting right to the chase here- Madagascar Escape 2 Africa is a worthy sequel to the first film, swapping around a few strengths and weaknesses while managing to maintain a pretty similar wacky vibe.  The original case and directorial team returned for the sequel which immediately puts this one in a tier above such direct-to-DVD sequels as Open Season 2.

But before all that, let’s talk about the plot.  The core of this tale, written by Etan Cohen and directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, once again follows the exploits of Alex (Ben Stiller), a showboating lion who, along with his buddies, escaped from caged captivity to the wild. Accompanying Alex are the wisecracking zebra, Marty (Chris Rock); the neurotic giraffe, Melman (David Schwimmer); and hippo with ever-expanding junk in the trunk, Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith).

When last we left this ragtag group of refugees, they found themselves trapped on the lush island of Madagascar, far from their destination (Africa) but even farther from their home in New York City.  This time the film opens with the later phases of their apparent final farewell to the island via a rickety formerly-downed plane operated by none other than the militant penguin crew.

After a launch that looks remarkably similar to the paper airplane exploits of my youth, the gang finds themselves crash-landed on their original destination: A game reserve on the savannah.  Here the plot becomes a bit bumpy- the penguins (with some help from the genuinely funny chimps) begin reconstruction of the plane that got them here but the viewer isn’t quite sure that, as seeing how the gang is finally united with others of their own species in the wild, if the long term goal is to stay or return to the zoo where the adventure all began.

It really doesn’t matter though either way because the film wastes little time setting up a whole bunch of subplots/ gags that detract from the greater plot purpose.  Alex finds himself attempting to gain acceptance in his parents’ pride, Melman is deemed a profit to the fellow giraffes, Marty discovers that he is simply a clone of all of the other zebras in the herd, and Gloria learns that her voluptuous nature is just the ticket to attracting a smooth-talking hippo playboy.

Of course even the film’s writers and directors realized that some of these same old gags (yes Alex manages to tangle with the little old lady again) are a bit tired so there is no shortage of side characters to break up the monotony.  The penguins are back, the chimps, and the lemurs as well.

Ben Stiller really manages to elevate the game just as he did in the first film with his infectious energy and Jada Pinkett Smith (thankfully) seems to have realized sometime between Madagascars that acting occasionally requires you to play someone other than your real life self as Gloria actually has a personality this time around.

The backgrounds are pretty darn spectacular again but, and not unlike in the real world, much more bleached out and open (opposed to the colorful lushness of the first).  There are a whole host of new characters brought into the fold (including one of the final performances of comedic mastermind Berne Mac as Alex’s dad, Alec Baldwin as the antagonist lion and the pop singer Will-I-Am (of the Black Eyed Peas) as Gloria’s hippopotamus suitor).

In all Madagascar succeeds on several levels but is by no means a masterwork on any particular aspect of filmmaking.  Some of the original gags feel a bit overdone this time but at least the further development of the characters offsets some of this.

As much as I wanted to say that this film was superior to the original, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t.  Fortunately it’s no worse either.  Rather, what we have here is essentially the same formula of the first film over again: A few humorous moments, some impressive visuals, a few annoying moments, and a bit of soaring prose.  Fans of the original will surely find much to like here but on the same token, if the original didn’t tickle your fancy, this one is probably better avoided.

Though Quite Different, More of the Same Though Quite Different, More of the Same Though Quite Different, More of the Same Though Quite Different, More of the Same

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October 10, 2010
I liked both films but the supporting characters are what really made me like them so much, atill over all they were both good.
October 10, 2010
Definitely! Have you had a chance to catch any of the "Penguins of Madagascar" spin off flicks? They've got them all on Amazon. I picked up two of them; really not bad at all.
October 03, 2010
Booo!!! LOL! Nah, very good review as always, buddy. I didn't hate this one but I guess I just wasn't impressed about it since it felt very cliched in terms of storytelling. It did expand on the premise as we get to meet the family but I guess how and why could've been executed better. I only saw this on HBO, bet it looks awesome in Blu.
October 04, 2010
Woop, I fully agree bro. This one had crazy potential (just like the first one did) but fell short on delivering. Something about the chimp duo always cracked me up even though the much-beloved lemurs and penguins seem to get the lion's share (pun intended) of the attention. You're right though, this one does dazzle on Blu. Thanks for the feedback bud.
More Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2... reviews
review by . September 17, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
To me, there's a lot of similarities between the "Ice Age" movies and the "Madagascar" movies. First, both series are about animals going on a journey. Second, they have similar animation styles. And third, they both suffered the same problems in their sequels... although "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" made it through these problems better than "Ice Age: The Meltdown."     The strength of the first "Madagascar" was its silliness. It never took itself too seriously. The characters …
review by . July 23, 2009
But I won't say better.    Sequels RARELY live up to their hype, but this movie was just as funny for me as the first one was.    I enjoyed the extra penguin screen time a great deal.    Surprisingly, the new story line (of still being lost) held up mighty well considering it was a redo. The addition of new characters and the return of favorites (like Julian) tickled me throughout.    Didn't happen to watch this one …
review by . February 07, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Madagascar Escape 2 Africa, it's just a fun afternoon family enjoyable movie. How can you not like that theme song, I like to move it, the ear worm? The characters are all back, the penguins are hilarious, everyone is just fantastically funny in this movie. Alec Baldwin is just way too good in his role as the evil lion. The late Bernie Mac performs, and is given a mention before the credits roll at the end. A 12 and 18 year old with two parents watched this movie and laughed hard throughout.      …
About the reviewer

Ranked #10
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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About this movie


The sequel to the animated movieMadagascargives more of everything audiences loved in the first movie: More of the penguins; more of Julian, king of the lemurs; more musical bits of classic rock; and many, many more lions, zebras, hippos, and giraffes. In the first film, a quartet of coddled zoo animals found themselves shipwrecked on the island of Madagascar in a misguided effort to return them to the wild. InMadagascar: Escape 2 Africa, a failed attempt to fly back to New York maroons Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) in an animal preserve on the African continent, accompanied by the four deranged penguins and the lunatic lemur king (deliriously voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen,Borat). By wild coincidence, this is where Alex was born--and where his father is still the alpha lion, and where his malevolent uncle seeks to take over (let's call this an homage toThe Lion King). The other beasts have their own story arcs, but really it's all an excuse for daffy comic bits. Though the result is disposable, it's also entirely entertaining. The action sequences pop with dizzying spectacle; though some jokes are mainstream fodder, more often they're surprisingly quirky and engagingly oddball. This is the best kind of cotton candy filmmaking--it dissolves into nothing, but it's oh-so-sweet to the taste.--Bret Fetzer
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DVD Release Date: February 6, 2009
Runtime: 89 minutes
Studio: DreamWorks
First to Review

"Into Africa"
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