You just knew the sequel Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was in the coming. Not only because New Yorker animals Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Melman the giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer), Marty the zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) and Gloria the hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) were stranded on an island and wanted to get back home in the original Madagascar. But also because Dreamworks made an obscene amount of money on the first film.
What I didn’t realize was that it would take three years for the sequel to emerge. It shouldn’t have taken nearly so long, since the animation is still simple and blocky in nature, and the premise is rather uninspiring and could have been thrown together in the amount of time it takes to eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut. The tandem of Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath (the driving forces behind the first film) have also sadly assured with this effort, a third installment is just around the corner.
That’s because the Central Park Zoo animals don’t actually make it back to New York as they had hoped in this movie either. Thanks to a little fuel oversight by those ingenious penguins, everyone aboard their makeshift airplane end up crash landed in Africa, on a game preserve to be exact. The foursome after meeting hundreds of their own kind split in their own cliques and do their own things. Alex, has his own Lion King-like adventure when he’s reunited with his parents — most notably his dad Zuba (voiced by the late Bernie Mac). Marty is overwhelmed that there are so many zebras that look and think like he does. Melman takes his knowledge of sickness and becomes a witch doctor. Gloria enjoys being the hottest commodity in the wading pool and finds herself dating resident hunk Moto Moto (Will.I.Am). But when the watering hole dries up, they need to set aside their new found individuality; put aside any differences they now have with one another and save the day.
It’s all pretty mundane though — the dialogue isn’t particularly snazzy or riddled with current affairs nuances. Schwimmer’s acting talent is about as exhilarating as the prospect of throwing ones self into an active volcano (which his character Melman looks to do; perhaps to rid himself of Schwimmer’s talents?). Come to think of it however, there is no reason to single out any one of the lead roles — they’re all equally as clichéd and boring. The only standouts, just like in the first film, are the penguins who are led by the wheeling-and-dealing Kowalski (voiced by Chris Miller). Without their devious and entertaining ways (car-jacking tour Jeeps) there would be very little good to say about the characters in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.
That was for the adults who will undoubtedly have to sit next to their children and be forced to do those fake laughs normally reserved for their mother-in-law’s jokes. Kids aren’t going to care one iota about what I’ve said. The backdrops are beautifully laid out — the work done to capture the African plains is breathtaking. The animals are silly, nonthreatening and do stupid things. Everything that can be made brightly colored and festive is brightly colored and festive. And much to my chagrin, my kids are still singing, “I like to move it, move it; I like to move it, move it.” It’s marketing at its finest (or worst depending on how you look at it).
But hey, it’s all for the kids, right? Sure Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is mind-numbing for those over the age of 13 (11 if you have an above average I.Q.). If, however, you look at it from the standpoint that there are worse situations that you can find yourself in, you’ll find it bearable. Suck it up — I did.