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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
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Movie Details

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Directed By
Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath

Ben Stiller, Sacha Baron Cohen, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, Chris Rock, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Zachary Gordon, Tom McGrath, Conrad Vernon, Will i Am, Elisa Gabrielli, Thomas Stanley, Kathryn Feller, Herman Almendarez, Bryceson Holcomb

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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
November 10th, 2008

The sequel to Madagascar is strangely subtitled 'Escape 2 Africa', though the island nation of Madagascar is technically a part of Africa to begin with; it lies off the eastern coast of the continent, in the Indian Ocean, a former French colony known primarily as the only place in the world where one can find lemurs, those large-eyed, tree-dwelling creatures that are classified as primates, though they look more like rodents of some kind. Yes, there are lemurs in this movie, headed by the wacky King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen). Cohen is a perfect fit for him, the standout in a uniformly excellent voice cast, headlined by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. Julien is arguably the most memorable and amusing character here, and thankfully gets quite a bit of screen time. This film is superior to its predecessor; it is funnier, more entertaining, and the animation is better. It always maintains a cartoonish atmosphere, and does not go for the hyper-realism of a Pixar feature, which is a wise decision in this case, since we are dealing with talking animals.

The animation is consistently top-notch, with occasionally stunning images, though it lacks the overall beauty and detail of Finding Nemo, Robots, or Wall E. That is a minor gripe, however. In the first flick, Alex the lion (Stiller), Marty the wise-cracking Zebra (Rock), Melman the neurotic Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) escaped from a zoo in Central Park, and got stranded on Madagascar; this new adventure has them planning to leave the island, in a makeshift plane built by and piloted by goofy penguins. Penguins, of course, cannot live in a arid or tropical environment, but these penguins found the Arctic too uncomfortably frigid, and wish to relocate to a warmer climate. Julien hitches a ride, along with loyal flunky Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer), and once they take to the sky, they crash-land somewhere in the plains of central Africa.

There, they meet their own kind, living freely in the wild, and this takes them by surprise. Alex is reunited with his parents; his father, Zuba (Bernie Mac) is the local pride chief, and Alex is groomed as his successor, though he must contend with the machinations of the scheming Makunga (Alec Baldwin), who wants Zuba's throne for himself. This portion of the plot borrows heavily from The Lion King; with Alex as Simba, Zuba as Mufasa, and Makunga, of course, as Scar. Baldwin is terrific, and relishes his villainous role. Eventually, Alex will set off on a quest to restore the area's dwindling water supply, and at this point, the story copies The Land Before Time. Kids undoubtedly know this franchise, now on its 13th direct-to-video installment, the original debuted in theaters back in 1988. In terms of narrative, 'Madagascar 2' is very derivative and predictable.

Fortunately, it transcends that problem by possessing charm, wit, and ample amounts of humor, oriented both towards children and adults. Accompanying the anthropomorphization is also a bit of sexualization, of hippos in particular, and many awkward questions arise from the possibility of a romantic relationship between a hippo and a giraffe; what would their offspring look like, and how exactly would they mate in the first place?

The film does have a lot of heart, though, and contains an encouraging message about diversity and harmonious co-existence between creatures of radically different species, carnivores like the lion enjoying the company of herbivores like the giraffe and zebra. The underlying theme can be expanded and applied to differences in culture, ethnicity, and religious belief within the human realm, to teach respect and tolerance, which are always good things to learn and internalize.

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Nov 16, 2008 9:51 AM
Jesus you can't be that dumb...Escape 2 Africa, plays on the fact that the Marty first wanted to escape to the WILD thinking it was in Connecticut...this further plays upon that lack of knowledge...thinking that Africa will get them away from their current location. Christ, I weep for the future of this nation. See the original before you spout about a sequel.

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