CHECK : Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
As much as I love Madagascar, it was never one of my favorite movies. So I didn’t bother watching the sequels when they came out. I saw Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa on television a few years after its original release. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember that I didn’t think it was as good as the original and that it took over a lot from The Lion King. That said, I hated DreamWorks and compared all their movies to the ones I thought they copied (which sometimes happened), so maybe that was just my bias I was talking about. The animation studio without personality made its name with films such as Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. So I always look at it with fresh eyes. This is Madagascar: Is Escape 2 Africa just a copy, or does this sequel bring something meaningful to the franchise it populates? Let’s see.
Madagascar: In Escape 2 Africa, Alex and his friends, along with penguins, monkeys, King Julien and Maurice, escape from the island in a rickety converted airplane. The core group just wants to get back to New York, and Julian is planning a non-hostile takeover. But everyone’s plans are abruptly interrupted when the penguins’ flying methods cause the plane to crash in the middle of the African savannah. At first things don’t look good, but Alex is soon reunited with his family and the lion pride who thought he was dead. Melman, Gloria and Marty all find their bond and everything seems to go well for a while. However, Makunga, a rival of Alex’s father, King Zuba, believes that Alex should be banished from pride because he never went through their rite of passage. When Alex insists that he is capable of performing the ritual, Makunga puts him to the test. Zuba refuses to exile his own son and is therefore forced to give up his power. Makunga is still taking over and exiling Alex. Meanwhile, Gloria befriends a hippo named Moto Moto, while Melman agonizes over his secret love for her. Marty soon realizes that the other zebras are just like him and are robbing him of the individuality that has always been important to him.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (which I’ll call Madagascar 2 from now on) has a lot going for it. The first Madagascar film was a fairly straightforward animal parody comedy, and while this one isn’t exactly Shakespeare, it does more with its world and characters. Some of these choices are better than others, but I appreciate the attempt to really develop the Madagascar story instead of spinning it out. It’s amazing how many series fall into this trap. Madagascar 2 features Bernie Mac (RIP) as Alex’s father, King Teeth, Will.i.am as Moto Moto and Alec Baldwin as Macunga. Zuba is by far the best of the new characters, both in his storytelling role and in what should be one of Bernie Mac’s last performances. Moto Moto is nothing special on its own, but it adds something to Gloria’s story, and it’s worth noting for Will.i.am’s version of I Like to Move This played during the end credits. I usually like Alec Baldwin, but I don’t like Macunga as a character or villain. I admit he doesn’t look like Scar as I remember him; he’s not even Zuba’s brother, as far as I know. He’s also a bigger physical threat than Scar, and his dynamic with Zuba is different than the one between Scar and Mufasa. But it’s boring and no fun. It’s also crazy how he continues to deceive and manipulate the other lions, especially Zuba and Alex. Macunga doesn’t seem particularly intelligent, and the other lions should be able to see through these simple patterns. The rite of passage could have easily been avoided. Zuba should have talked to Alex and explained it himself, or Alex could have asked a second source if what Makunga said was true. Makunga could have been a more engaging and threatening villain in many ways. In short, if it were up to me, Madagascar 2 wouldn’t have a villain. The actual conflict in the film takes place between the four main characters and their various tribes in Africa, so there’s really no need for supporting players. I’m sure marketing said they wanted a villain that kids would rebel against, but that doesn’t mean it’s better for the story.
Apart from all the Makunga stuff, I really like Zuba and her relationship with Alex. They do the usual things when a parent needs to learn that their child’s unique gifts are useful, but I don’t mind. It’s not too much trouble, and everyone apologizes before they get tired of it. I love the first scene of the movie where Zuba tries to teach Alex how to fight. It’s really heartbreaking when little Alex (who is very cute) is lost. I don’t care about the romance between Melman and Gloria. There are some good jokes in there, and I like the scene where Melman lists the things he likes about her that Moto Moto couldn’t do. But overall, they’re not as compelling as these two. I think it could have been better, but I also think it doesn’t detract too much from the film.
I love Marty’s identity crisis, especially as it tests his friendship with Alex. Anyway, I don’t really like Melman’s giraffe story. Occasionally it’s fun and that’s about it, but it doesn’t last long, so I don’t mind. Some jokes that were reused in the first film were missing in my opinion. The old lady is not as funny as the writers think she is, and the montage after the opening with Zuba and baby Alex is unnecessary. It’s just a montage of memorable scenes from the first film, reminding the viewer how we got here. As I said before, Madagascar is a very simple movie with a simple story. Nevertheless: Anyone who sees Madagascar 2 probably knows the plot of the first film well enough to follow it. It may be a detail, and frankly I hate lists anyway, with a few exceptions. Maybe the kids and their parents really needed to be reminded of the first movie to make it easier for them.
The music is composed by Hans Zimmer and Gator Pereira, and it’s pretty awesome. The main theme of Madagascar fits the new setting of the story, and overall the film is just great. The entertainment is also in good shape and has improved as much as can be expected in three years. The fur of the animals is beautiful, and I still love the wacky drawing style.
Overall, I think Madagascar 2 is about as good as the first part, if not a little less so. It’s not as fun and fast-paced as Madagascar, but it makes up for it by going deeper into the characters and exploring Alex’s past. Madagascar 2 is no masterpiece, but it’s not as good as The Lion King, and I like it better now than when I first saw it.
Location – 7
Action – 8
Music/Sound – 10
Control/Assembly – 7
Animation – 10
Overall, I think Madagascar 2 is about as good as the first part, if not a little less so. It’s not as fun and fast-paced as Madagascar, but it makes up for it by going deeper into the characters and exploring Alex’s past.
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