Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa – Review

Not a winning advertisment for Africa.


Image Courtesy of IMPAwards.com

Directors: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
Notable Voice Cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Bernie Mac

Like its star, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa has neither the gumption nor the ability to try anything new. It helps that the first Madagascar had an assortment of entertaining characters and ideas, but why pay to see it all again? Even the ads for the new film look the same.

Madagascar 2 follows the continued tales of four New York zoo animals marooned in Africa. Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) and Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) are still stuck and still a group characters stucks in a fish out of water film. That’s pretty much about it, as the film is derivative of the first film in the franchise and doesn’t add anything else to the plot. It’s retread over proven mediocre material at best, and it starts with how the film’s main characters are treated.

It would be one thing if Alex and company showed any new character depth which is certainly asking a lot from an animated sequel, but the fact is they all suffer from the same problems as they did in the original film. In fact, Stiller’s character seems to find himself as a stranger in a strange land just looking to be loved in most of his live action movies as well, up to and including Tropic Thunder.

A viewer might feel sentimental for such characters if Stiller were not constantly overbearing, but even his voice grates the wrong way. No wonder Marty (Christ Rock) wants nothing to do with Alex, the Lion is selfish. An undesirable character trait to be sure, that is if the movie made anyone care about its primary characters more than the secondary ones.

As with the original, Madagascar 2 spends considerable (yet far to little) time on the exploits of a quartet of violent, sophisticated penguins; a pair of business savvy chimpanzees; and Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) the Lemur King. Every one of their subplots is funnier and more interesting than the goings on between the four primaries.

Even the filmmakers treat the four as second class citizens. It seems that if such characters are as irrelevant and dispensable as these four, maybe the movie should take on a new focus. If the writers can’t be bothered to put anything beyond a rote “everyone is special” storyline, they shouldn’t have a plot at all.

Crazy as it may seem, a film with no discernable story arc would probably be fairly entertaining. Especially an animated flick such as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. After all, the characters are likeable enough and the voice casting (Stiller aside) is exceptional. Besides, didn’t Looney Toons—material that clearly inspired Madagascar—thrive with brief sketches involving the same characters in a variety of scenarios? It seems like there is room in the market for more of that style of animation.

Anything would be better than the hour and a half long brand awareness ads audiences are subjected to nowadays. The disheartening thing is the inevitability of a third installment. It is troubling that after two attempts the characters still haven’t made it back home.

FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):

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