You've probably heard of (or seen?) Madagascar, the DreamWorks animated film in which a rag-tag group of NYC zoo animals (voiced by Ben "Alex the Lion" Stiller, Chris "Marty the Zebra" Rock, and Jada "Gloria the Hippo" Pinkett Smith) have to fend for themselves in the wild terrain of Madagascar. The sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, follows the first film fairly closely: The critters are stranded yet again, somewhere in Africa. The movie has all of the expected jokes, stereotypes and plotlines, without leaving much to be ponder once the credits roll (Wall-E this ain't), but what would you expect from a sequel aimed at 8-year-olds? The critics were bored, but they understood that they weren't exactly the target audience. The reviews, after the jump.Entertainment Weekly:
In the brightly drawn sequel, as technically smooth as we've come to expect from the DreamWorks cartoon factory, all four use their time in Africa — the land of their ancestors! — as an opportunity for personal growth, only to wind up more or less the way they always were. What, you were expecting a cutting-edge twist, maybe something about a lonely postapocalyptic robot? Wrong part of the animated kingdom, my friends. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is pretty tame, but it knows how to keep its own turf tidy.
It’s unsurprising that Alex’s mane registers as more realistic than any of his words or emotions, but it’s also a bummer. “Escape 2 Africa” is good enough in patches to make its distracting star turns, storybook clichés and stereotypes harder to take than they would be in a less enjoyable movie. Casting Mr. Stiller and Mr. Schwimmer may sear their brands onto under-age cerebral cortices but does nothing for the movie. And, really, did the hippo (voiced by will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas) who courts Gloria with a low rumble and a suggestive shimmy have to sound like Barry White rather than, say, Marc Anthony or Justin Timberlake? I laughed, but honestly, if this country can vote colorblind surely its movie studios can animate colorblind too. (Can’t they?)
Though it doesn't add anything new to the genre, Madagascar 2 is amusing animated fare. And with few current movies aimed at very young audiences, this menagerie offers more potential for humor and visual panache than, say, a movie about Chihuahuas.
It doesn't look like that plane is gonna make it. That doesn't mean across the Atlantic from Africa. It means across Africa to the Atlantic. Do they (or their audience) realize Madagascar is east of Africa, in the Indian Ocean? How I know, I had a friend from Madagascar once. Beat me at chess. Some people are probably wondering about the title "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," because they think the animals escaped 2 Africa in the first place. Now shouldn't they be escaping 4rom Africa? So they take off, and (spoiler?) crash in Africa. Now they are faced with exactly the same dilemma as in the first film: Can wild animals survive in the wild?
The pleasant but far-from-pioneering crew of the cheerful 2005 DreamWorks animated film "Madagascar" reunite for "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" to similar results. Essentially this sequel has settled down into a sitcom: Each of its major zoo-raised animals has a comical issue that must get resolved before the credits roll. The film, like its predecessor, is aimed mostly at children and should score a direct hit.
"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is the rare animated sequel that reps a notable improvement on its predecessor in every department. Lively and quite funny without being obnoxious, this follow-up smoothly mixes the original's New York Zoo escapees with a number of engaging new characters they encounter upon crossing from Madagascar to the mother continent. With the first film's creative team intact, this DreamWorks Animation franchise has been well tended to, meaning it's reasonable to assume a repeat of the earlier outing's $533 million worldwide haul (an unusually large percentage of which came from overseas).
With its stylized menagerie resembling plush creatures on a Toys R Us shelf, M2 surely will appeal to undemanding viewers age 6 and younger. Yet unlike Pixar films, this busy and noisy film has too-generic a story and too-undistinguished a look to offer much for those kids' older siblings and their parents.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa extends what Madagascar did best: fill up the screen with computer-generated visual novelty. The slapstick humor remains, as does the slack plotting. Introducing only a few new characters that are unfortunately unmemorable, this sequel is likewise a decent diversion that's not much worth talking about afterward.
I took my kid and three of his pals to an Imax screening, and while I could've done without the film's martial arts slapstick involving the cranky old outer-borough lady on safari, in a role expanded from her Grand Central Station cameo in the first picture, well, if there's one thing parenthood teaches anybody in this country, it's that boys rarely fail to laugh at someone gettin' it in the 'nads from a senior citizen. Reviews from our second-grade posse: "Really liked it." "Four million stars." "Five million stars."
Newsday ('Kidsday' Reporters):
The movie was hysterical, especially the scenes with the old lady and the penguins. One of our favorite parts was when the old lady beats up an evil lion named Makunga. Another funny scene is when Gloria, the Hippo, dances. We give the movie 4 1/2 smiles!
The movie even looks better than the original, approaching photo-realism in its jungle imagery. For better or worse, the music is every bit as corny as before: "Born Free" is still the theme tune and Barry Manilow and Boston is on the penguins' eight-track player – but what do you expect from those bird brains? The highest praise I can give Madagascar 2 is to say that it reminds me of the antics of another animal, the one called Monty Python.
'Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa' opens today in wide release.