Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
viewed: 11/09/08 at AMC Loews Metreon 16 with IMAX, SF, CA

When the original Madagascar (2005) came out, it was met by the Disney Studio’s The Wild (2006), another movie about New York City zoo creatures accidentally re-released back in their native lands, unprepared for the experience.  The Wild was awful and we didn’t manage to see Madagascar until it hit DVD.  And while I have never sat and watched the origianal film all the way through, I have seen most of it it fits and starts, and I was quite surprised by how much better it is/was.

Frankly, if you put a live action movie out with Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock, and Jada Pinkett Smith as the stars, I doubt that I would even be willing to rent it.  But oddly enough, both Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa manage to eclipse the more significant character development and humdrummedness of the starring cast by the hilarious bit characters and smaller roles, most notably the military-esque penguins, the intellectual chimps, and King Julien, the lemur king (voiced by Sascha Baron Cohen).  And much like the first film, those characters steal the show in this one too.

There is the primary plot of Stiller’s Alex the lion, returning to his homeland and his mom and dad, from whom he was separated as a cub, and rites of passage, familial acceptance, villainous takeover of the tribe by an Alec Baldwin-voice lion, and blah blah blah, bliss and harmony.  Far more entertaining are the sequences involving the penguins high-jacking tourist jeeps to build an airplace, assisted by an army of chimps, and the frolicking (definitely over-the-top and verging frequently on annoying rather than hilarious) rantings of King Julien.  There is also the creepy, cutesy lemur who they try to get rid of, who keeps running from a shark in a great simple visual gag.

The sum of the parts are better than the whole.  In fact, some of the parts are better than the whole.  But it works.  It’s funny, lushly-animated, and entertaining, far better than much of the other animated films that I’ve gone to see with the kids.  And they liked it, which is an endorsement of its own.