Movie Review
Madagascar 2
Madagascar 2 poster
By Craig Younkin     Published November 9, 2008
US Release: November 7, 2008

Directed by: Eric Darnell Tom McGrath
Starring: Ben Stiller , Sacha Baron Cohen , Chris Rock , David Schwimmer

PG for some mild crude humor.
Running Time: 89 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $179,982,968
Pretty unnecessary and forgettable, which is too bad considering the first one was enjoyable for just about everybody.
“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is about as unnecessary and empty-headed a sequel as your likely to find, but it gives the kids a chance to reconnect with some old characters from their past and offers up some really impressive looking animation. Dreamworks animation usually starts movies off pretty well. I loved the first “Madagascar” flick with its fast and funny slapstick and colorful and strong attention to detail but the sequel really takes the road that the “Shrek” films have started to take as well, drowning out a fully-fleshed out story for pop culture references, random sentimentality and a musical soundtrack that’s all over the map. The music in this movie is especially distracting. I never thought I would hear Boston and Barry Manilow in an animated movie or that poppy dance music by the likes of Will.I.Am would ever be used either. And it more or less shouldn’t be cause it adds almost nothing to the story. This movie may have been produced by former Disney honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg but he’s a long way from working with the soulful and emotionally resonating likes of Elton John, Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and Howard Ashman from that golden age of Disney.

Speaking of Disney’s golden age, the story kinda mirrors “The Lion King” but I say that as loosely as possible. As the movie opens, Alex the showboating Lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the ethnic Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the happy Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) are boarding a makeshift plane (built by those still fantastically funny penguins who plot and scheme with military-like efficiency) to take back to New York after their vacation in Madagascar. They encounter a problem when the plane experiences engine trouble, crash-landing them in Africa. As it turns out, Alex was actually born in Africa but kidnapped by hunters. The unexpected landing reunites him with his father Zuba (Bernie Mac), who would very much like to see his son take over as leader of the pack, to the chagrin of another lion (Alec Baldwin) out for his own power. In addition, some other subplots include Melman and Gloria pining after one another, and Marty discovering he isn’t as unique as he originally thought. As things progress, we find out that the land is drying up and its up to the quartet to help find fresh water.

This stuff is presented merely as filler and isn’t given nearly enough attention to matter. What directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell really want you to focus on is the rich animation, blending color, exquisite character and background detail, and fluid movements together to create some really strong visual energy in every scene. It may not be that good a movie but I love the attention on the manes of the lions and the fact that Marty looks interestingly like Chris Rock. Unfortunately the entertainment stops there though as the movie relies less on the inspired slapstick comedy from the first flick for more sentimentality. Friendship, family, lack of uniqueness, and a hidden love between two friends are all introduced and in giving each of the four characters their own little dramatic storyline with only an hour and a half running time, nothing really clicks and it takes up time that could have benefited better by being more fun.

Big name casts doing voices is also something I’m growing to hate more and more. The kids the movie is aimed at won’t care and it doesn’t offer parents much to do except wonder how much these guys are getting paid just to phone something in. Stiller, Rock, Smith, and Schwimmer each bring nearly nothing to the table and while the script doesn’t help them, I think it sucks that their getting an almost free paycheck out of this. Bernie Mac and Alec Baldwin have joined the cast as well but they don’t seem to matter either. The only one working at all here is still Sacha Baron Cohen, playing the wildly goofy lemur King Julian. If “Da Ali G Show” proved anything it's that no one has a better gift for being over the top than Cohen and his delivery always leaves you wanting more of him. I can’t wait for “Bruno” to finally come out in May next year.

“Madagascar 3” is something I can wait for though. I think the series is done. Most of the fun is missing and when that happens, the weakness of the story starts to rear its head. “Madagascar 2” is a pretty unnecessary and forgettable kids movie, which is too bad considering the first one was enjoyable for just about everybody.
Craig's Grade: C
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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