You had to see this one coming. Any time a movie grosses 500 million dollars a sequel can’t be far behind. So from the same company that brought us Shrek 2 and 3 and the upcoming Shrek 4-D comes Madagascar Escape 2 Africa which sees all the original Central Park Zoo creatures—Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and, of course, the penguins take another road trip.
As we rejoin the New York-raised zoo animals they are still marooned in Madagascar. When the penguins find an old plane it looks like they might be able to travel back home to America. Unfortunately the plane crash lands far short of their target. This time they end up stranded in Africa, “our ancestral crib,” as Marty the Zebra calls it. They soon discover that despite long lost relatives and some unexpected romance that the African jungle is a much different place than the concrete jungle they’re used to.
Madagascar Escape 2 Africa isn’t a bad kid’s flick, but it suffers from the usual symptoms of sequelitis. It isn’t quite as funny as the first movie, the story feels padded, even at a compact 89 minutes and the situation seems a bit too familiar. Not that any of that will matter to the little ones once they’ve seen the fun supporting cast.
The leads, save for Chris Rock’s hyperactive zebra, are rather bland, so luckily they are supported by lively and colorful secondary characters. Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame plays King Julien, the dramatic lemur monarch. His slapstick antics should amuse kids but his sly double entendres are aimed directly at adults. He has a funny, and possibly slightly inappropriate, line about almonds and a silver platter that’ll fly high over the tot’s heads but wake up their parents. In fact, the movie is peppered with lines referring to Darwinism and union trade talks that are clearly calculated to widen the movie’s appeal to all members of the family.
Kids will like the lemur, but they will love the penguins. Penguins are the new dogs. Not since the heyday of dog movies like Benji and Lassie has one species won over the hearts of so many. March of the Penguins was a left field hit a few years ago and an R-rated parody of that movie, Farce of the Penguins, soon followed. The little furry birds have also appeared in Happy Feet, the 3-2-1 Penguins series and even something called Penguins Behind Bars. Everybody loves penguins, and in Madagascar Escape 2 Africa their gangster shenanigans are the highlight of the movie. Next—a third Madagascar movie is already in the works—hopefully Dreamworks will pull back on the bland Alex the Lion character and focus on the penguins.
Madagascar Escape 2 Africa is a family friendly movie with slapstick for the kids and slightly more sophisticated jokes for the adults.