Photo © 2008 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.
PG for some mild crude humor.
Action / Adventure, Comedy, Animation, Sequel
Nov. 7, 2008
(the voices of) David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric The Entertainer, Alec Baldwin, Bernie Mac, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Andy Richter
Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
DreamWorks, Paramount Pictures
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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Senior Producer
- The loveable zoo crew from Madagascar is back. When we last saw Alex (Ben Stiller) the dancing lion, his best friend Marty (Chris Rock) the zebra, trendy hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), and hypochondriac giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer), the animals from the Central Park Zoo in New York had accidentally made their way to the shores of Madagascar with no way to get home. That’s where this film picks up.
First, however, the audience learns Alex’s back story from a flashback through his childhood. He was raised on an animal reserve in Africa by his father, Zuba (Bernie Mac) and his mother (Sherri Shepherd) until hunters captured him. From there he eventually landed in New York where he grew up to be the zoo’s dancing sensation.
The movie then moves to present day where the animal pals are looking to leave Madagascar and have hatched a risky plan of escape. Their penguin friends have attempted to repair an old plane that crashed in the area, and they plan to use it to fly home. However, the plane doesn’t hold together very well once it is airborne, and the crew crashes onto the plains of Africa. It is here that they meet species of their own kind for the first time.
As Marty gets to know the other zebras, and Gloria looks for love among her fellow hippos, Alex is reunited with his parents. His father is the alpha male of the pride and is pleased to learn that his son has made a name for himself as “the king of New York.” It isn’t until after his son is challenged to a fight that Zuba realizes his son’s fame stems from his dance skills, not his fighting ability.
Often sequels are never quite as good as their original counterparts, and this is the case with Escape 2 Africa. The animation is beautifully done, especially in the numerous scenes of the African landscape. And the talented cast members are back along with newcomers, Alec Baldwin, Bernie Mac, and Sherri Shepherd adding to the fun. The entire cast does an excellent job, but the film just never captures that magical quality found in the original one.
Though the movie does provide plenty of laughs, much of the film’s humor is fairly crude in nature and includes a plethora of double entendres and close up shots of animals’ rear ends. Most of the jokes are harmless enough, and the sexual innuendos will probably sail over the heads of young viewers. Still, it’s sad that parents have to even think about such things from a kid’s movie.
The film also offers more violence than typically seen in animated flicks. In addition to the duel between Alex and the enormous lion he attempts to fight, he also takes quite a beating from Nana, the spry old New York lady from the first film. The scenes are not bloody or graphic, but the constant fighting grows old quickly.
There are also several disturbing spiritual elements in the movie. With the encouragement of his fellow giraffes, Melman takes over as the animal’s witch doctor. And after their watering hole dries up, King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) recommends sacrificing one of the members of the reservation to “the gods” in a nearby volcano, something which he believes will cause the deities to provide water in return.
I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt these touches of paganism were needed or appropriate for a kids’ movie. Perhaps it was to pay homage to these primitive forms of spirituality that continue to exist in some parts of Africa, but they still seem oddly out of place here.
Overall, the film does entertain, and even offers a few feel-good moments along the way; it just isn’t as much fun as the first one.
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