Dreamworks Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (Blu-ray) All of the lovable characters are back – Alex The Lion, Marty The Zebra, Melman The Giraffe and Gloria The Hippo, King Julien, Maurice and The Penguins – in “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”. They find themselves in the wildest place of all – the vast plains of Africa – where our zoo-raised crew encounter species of their own kind for the very first time. While discovering their roots, they quickly find the differences between the concrete jungle and the heart of Africa. Despite long-lost relatives, romantic rivals and scheming hunters, Africa seems like agreat place…but is it better than their CentralPark home.
All of the original characters from Madagascar return in the sequel, as well as some other interesting additions. The plot is in the same vein as the first: Alex, Melman, Marty and Gloria are trying to get back to New York but they (obviously) don’t make it and end up in Africa, where they have a surprisingly hilarious and involved adventure just fitting in.
The story progresses rather quickly from the beginning, with a quick catch-up of Alex’s childhood story and a catch-up on what happened in the first film (for any of those who would see the sequel without seeing the first). After the opening scene, we see the four main characters, as well as Julian, his majordomo Maurice, the two chimps and the four penguins boarding a plane that the penguins apparently borrowed from King Julian and rebuilt for flight (mostly). It ends up crashing and everyone has to deal with the consequences of joining their respective animal cliques in their new home. We meet Alex’s parents (played by the late Bernie Mac and Sherri Shephard), his father’s extremely smug rival to Alpha Lion, Mukunga (played very well by Alec Baldwin) and a new love-interest for Gloria, heavy-handed hunk of a hippo, Moto Moto (played by will.i.am).
There were so many things done right in this movie: the fan favorite Penguins received way more screen time (with the Skipper having some devastating one liners), the old woman from the first one, Nana, came back as one of the main antagonists (in a somewhat bizarre yet rather comedic plot line) and Sacha Baron Cohen outdid himself once again as the scene-stealing Julian, King of the Lemurs. Then there are the various pop culture references that only adults could appreciate including a scene taken from The Twilight Zone, several movie references, and in one of the most hilarious yet easy to miss parts, Julian stumbles around after some hard partying mumbling Tina Turner’s Private Dancer. The music for the film was fleshed out more than the first with a couple new songs from the Black Eyed Peas will.i.am that paired well with what was happening on screen.
The Blu-ray disc had several features included on it, including the main songs, the normal Making Of…, Director’s commentary and Meet the Cast shots, but what is probably the most popular feature on the disc are two episodes of the new TV series The Penguins Of Madagascar. It was still funny, but clearly they’ve toned down the jokes so kids will get them and made the show far cuter.
If you’re a fan of the original Madagascar, the sequel goes above and beyond anyone’s expectations. The writers clearly understood what fans of the original wanted to see and made a movie that’s going to be funny for adults and kids; although it’s possibly slightly funnier for the adults. Either way there’s no way you’re going to be anything but entertained. And while in general I’m practically against a third sequel to any movie, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa has left me eager for the proposed final installment in the animated zoo animal adventure series.
Review by Nicolas Bunzmann