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4 reviews, 17 user ratings

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Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Another Bungle In The Jungle"
1 stars

Like most sequels, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” exists for one reason and one reason only--the 2005 original made so much money that even the laziest and hackiest follow-up imaginable would be a guaranteed smash hit at the box-office. Unfortunately, the filmmakers have chosen to live up to that by offering nothing more to viewers than a silly rehash of material that does nothing more than repeat the best-loved bits of the original in the context of a storyline that feels less like a continuation and more like one of those wheel-spinning direct-to-video tales that studios sometimes whip together to fill in the gap between sequels in order to score another potential jackpot without expending too much time or creative energy. The result is a film that is so devoid of anything original or unique to offer viewers that it isn’t too much of a surprise to discover that it doesn’t refer to itself in the title as “Madagascar 2”--if the producers were forced to apply normal truth-in-advertising standards, they would have probably had to call it “Madagascar 1.5” instead.

If you will recall, the previous film involved a quartet of zoo animals from New York--Alex (Ben Stiller), the lion king of show-biz savvy; Marty (Chris Rock), the zebra who yearned to break free of the urban jungle and be with his own kind; Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), the sassy hippo and Melman (David Schwimmer), the neurotic and hypochondriac giraffe who was nursing a not-so-secret crush on Gloria--who found themselves yanked from their lives of cushy comfort and stranded in the jungles of Madagascar to fend for themselves, along with a pair of erudite monkeys, a group of bizarre penguins and an even-more bizarre lemur leader King Julien (Sascha Baron Cohen). This film picks up pretty much where the last one left off as the entire gang boards a plane refurbished by those enormously resourceful penguins in order to fly back to New York City and return to the creature comforts of the zoo. Like most air travel these days, the flight is pretty much a disaster once they become airborne and before too long, the craft crash-lands outside of an African wildlife preserve. Not only that, it turns out to be the same area where Alex used to live as a small cub before being snatched away from his father (Bernie Mac) and taken to the zoo.

While the penguins and the monkeys contrive to repair the plane (at least before union troubles threaten to scuttle the whole thing), each one of our four main heroes gets to embark on their own sitcom-like adventure un which they get to laugh and, if they aren’t careful, they might just learn something about themselves. Alex is reunited with his father and mother (Sherri Shepard) but his bumbling attempts to fit back in to the life that he left behind inspire a chain of events that sees the control of the pride fall into the paws of the hated Makunga (Alec Baldwin). Marty reconnects with his heritage as well when he comes across a herd of zebras but finds it difficult to adjust to being surrounded by hundreds of creatures who look, sound and act exactly like him, especially when it appears that best friend Alex can no longer tell him from the others. Gloria, for her part, decides to go off in search of a little loving and perhaps finds what she is looking for in the jumbo-sized charms of hippo lothario Moto Moto (Will I. Am). This naturally crushes the lovesick Melman and he tries to cope with this by becoming the doctor for the reserve until the discovery of a suspicious brown spot on his neck convinces him that he hasn‘t long to live. These various storylines wind up tying together when the reserve‘s water supply is cut off--Alex and Marty join forces to find what is blocking the source while the morose Melman, who fears that he is losing both his life and the love of his life, volunteers to be the main attraction of a human sacrifice at the local volcano put together by King Julien in order to appease the fickle water gods.

If “Madagascar” represented everything that was wrong with contemporary animated films--a shallow and one-note screenplay, voice actors who were cast more for their ability to get on talk shows to plug the film than anything else, a noisy and frenetic filmmaking style designed to cover up the fact that there was nothing of substance on display and a relentless barrage of pop-culture references in lieu of actual humor--then “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” represents everything that is wrong with contemporary sequels, animated or not. Because they are trying to extend a storyline that wasn’t in any real need of extending while keeping things open enough for the all-but-inevitable “Madagascar 3” to emerge in another three years, the screenplay by Etan Cohen and Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath (the latter two also directed, repeating their duties from the original) is basically an exercise in narrative water-treading that neither spins the story off in new and interesting directions nor does it give us any additional reasons to display any rooting interest in the rather dull central characters--it feels more like a conglomeration of episodes of a cheapo Saturday morning TV spin-off of the film than a real continuation. The voice characterizations are fairly bland and indistinct--for all of the high-priced talent on display, the only cast members whose contributions inspire any real response are once again relative unknowns Tom McGrath, Christopher Knight and Chris Miller as the ruthlessly efficient and utterly berserk penguins that were the unexpected highlight the first time around. Speaking of those penguins, the filmmakers have taken all the weird little surprises that audiences responded to the first time around--namely the penguins, King Julien and the spunky old granny that fought off Alex in Grand Central Station--and have given them all expanded roles this time around. In theory, this should work as an example of giving audiences what they want but by doing so, the filmmakers allow them all to eventually wear out their welcomes (especially the granny, whose appearance here redefines the term “superfluous”) while neglecting to come up with new characters and ideas that could possibly amuse us in the same way that they did. As for the jokes, they are pretty much split between lame slapstick for the kids and lamer pop-culture shoutouts for the grownups, including lame references to “Flight of the Phoenix” and “The Twilight Zone” and a pretty good homage to the classic comedy “The In-Laws,” one of the many films you would be better served watching than this one.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is a lazy bit of assembly-line filler that comes across less like a real movie and more like a filmed business deal. Of course, none of this will matter to little kids who only want to see something bright and colorful and silly and parents who only want to take their family to see something that isn’t the umpteenth screening of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” or “High School Musical 3.” If you fall within the parameters of one of those two groups, then I suppose that the film is an essentially harmless bit of filler that will tide you over until the release of “Bolt” in a couple of weeks. If, however, you don’t belong to either of those groups--or you do and yet you still maintain enough cock-eyed optimism to expect a little more creativity from so-called “family entertainment”--then you are likely to look upon this as a shrill and annoying bummer about which the best thing that you can say is that while it is worse than the original, it isn’t that much worse. Of course, the former will be the ones coming out to see the film in droves in the next couple of weeks and thanks to them, we will no doubt have “Madagascar 3” in a couple of years. Perhaps having already gone back 2 Africa, this third time around will inspire the filmmakers to go back 2 the drawing board instead.

I realize that the last line of this review doesn't make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it was a joke based entirely on my delusion that the film was actually titled "Madagascar: Back 2 Africa" and, quite frankly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to come up with a brand new closing line for this review. My apologies to all.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17381&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/07/08 00:00:00
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User Comments

6/25/18 Leonora P Dave Cornelius has a sense-of-humour bypass! 5 stars
4/24/18 Louise What's up with you all? It's enormous fun! 4 stars
3/13/16 Charles Tatum Completely unmemorable 2 stars
7/29/09 Dr.Lao Made me want to "move it move it" right out of the room! 2 stars
3/05/09 Elaine Truly fun for all the family... Watch it guys.. cause if you don't, your missing out a lot! 5 stars
12/23/08 nomo see it in IMAX 3 stars
12/13/08 zenny forgettable but mildly entertaining kid flick 3 stars
11/23/08 George Barksdale The Penguins are good 3 stars
11/21/08 JD poor film, and brianorndoff is a hypocrite he gave walle 2 stars and this crap 4 stars 1 stars
11/20/08 KB5 Good family fun. The kids were dancing in their seats. 4 stars
11/14/08 William Wentzell Despite its obvious short cuts and short comings I thought it was an enjoyable movie to see 4 stars
11/13/08 Ryan Kinda predictable, bit lame of story but still pretty funny. 3 stars
11/10/08 Monty Only see it for the Penguins. 2 stars
11/09/08 Susan first one was funnier but good family movie 3 stars
11/09/08 Samantha Pruitt some funny parts, there's things in there for adults, the first one is funnier 4 stars
11/08/08 Abby Meyer great family fun! 4 stars
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  07-Nov-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 06-Feb-2009


  DVD: 06-Feb-2009

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