, 89 min, 2008
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
Writers: Etan Cohen (written by) and Eric Darnell (written by) & Tom McGrath (written by)
Stars: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a decent and quasi-likable sequel to a decent and quasi-likable animated film that I couldn’t quite recommend a few years back. This one’s not really much better, you understand, but more on that later.
A reminder to those for whom the 2005 original will be a foggy, distant memory: At the Central Park Zoo, Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) and his friends Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) were big stars. Then, they accidentally were shipped off to a small island off the coast of Africa, where they met an insane little animal called King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen). Through various complications, they were almost killed by (if I recall correctly) a volcanic sacrifice.
This sequel is more of the same, except this time the quartet takes off to go back to New York and ends up crash-landing in another part of Africa – the preserve where Alex disappeared from as a young cub. There, they meet Alex’s parents Zuba (the late Bernie Mac) and Mom (Sherri Shepherd), get immersed in a plot involving a nefarious rival lion called Makunga (Alec Baldwin), and Gloria contemplates love within her own species when she meets the big and handsome Moto Moto (hip hop star Will.I.Am).
The cast here does what they can with the flimsy material. Stiller leads the pack in over-the-top showboat mode; Rock is the Ebonics-speaking wiseacre; Schwimmer is the neurotic giraffe. Perhaps the most enjoyable is, once again, a tie between the smooth-talking, bumbling, always conspiring penguins (led by co-director Tom McGrath) and the ever-energetic, hip hop-loving king of the Jungle Julien, voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen. It’s also worth noting that Will.I.Am, as Gloria’s potential love interest Moto Moto, lets his inner Tone Loc come out on every line reading.
The film was directed and written by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, and if it’s not artistically-stunning, or thought-provoking or too serious, it can be fun and fitfully amusing. Now: through the arbitrary rules of star ratings and relativity, I am recommending this very mildly – I’m not saying it’s better than the original, which I gave half a star less, but that it is basically equal.