Posted: 11/09/2008

 

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

(2008)

by Laura Tucker




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I’m trying to figure out when it was that voicing an animated movie became a great career move. If you look back twenty years ago, there weren’t any big name actors voicing characters in The Little Mermaid or The Land Before Time. Then again, while those were hits with kids, they weren’t exactly movies adults would be going to.

Yet now, we have movies appealing to both kids and adults, and part of that appeal seems to be the talent that voices the films. In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa we have the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Andy Richter, and Alec Baldwin. Who would think that in what is basically a kids’ cartoon, we’d have all this talent?

It helps that the names play up to their typecasting as well, as we have Stiller playing an ambitious lion, Alex, who tries hard, but doesn’t always do as well as he’d like to, Rock playing a zebra, Marty, who seems to have a little A.D.H.D. thing going on and yearns to be unique, Smith plays a hippo, Gloria, with enough inner beauty that it is reflected on the outside, and Schwimmer plays a hypochondriac giraffe, Melman, that moons secretly over Gloria.

The four heroes originally went from a zoo in New York and landed in Madagascar, stranded, and in a bit of oddness that we know will make more sense later, we first see Alex’s tragic beginnings of being separated as a young cub from his father, and ending up in the zoo. Now they are determined to make their way back home to New York, and take off in a refurbished old airplane, along with some refugees from Madagascar, King Julien, a lemur (Cohen), and his assistants (Cedric and Richter).

The plane crash lands in Africa, allowing the four animals from the zoo to reconnect with their roots. While Marty is initially ecstatic to find animals exactly like him, he then realizes it’s better to be unique. Gloria finds that being heavy is desirable among the hippos, and Melman’s hypochondria is fed by the other giraffes insisting he be the witch doctor (complete with clip-on bone through his nose) only to then convince him he is dying because of his brown spots. It’s Alex who gains the most, though, finding his parents after all these years apart.

Like with the first Madagascar film, Escape 2 Africa has not just great star power, but also humor to be enjoyed by both young and old. Younger people would never get the humor of popping an 8-track in to the player in the plane, cranking out More Than a Feeling, Julien asking to have some nuts on a silver platter while sitting in first class, or him telling the others to stop another lemur from getting on the plane as he’s carrying scissors and hand cream. But, they do get the rest of the fun, including the many sight gags, such as the penguin pilots trying to figure out how to stop the blinking warning light, then picking up the manual and smashing the light with it.

It all ends up to make Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa an enjoyable film that is sure to do great at the box office, unlike those movies from twenty years ago. Instead of just being enjoyed by young kids at the theater or in video later on, they exceed expectations with star power to bring everyone in to see the film, then back it all up with some great writing.

Laura Tucker  is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at LauraBelle@realityshack.com.



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