Posted: 12/02/2008

 

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

(2008)

by Lauren Sepanski




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I have to admit, I wasn’t too stoked to hear someone decided we needed a Madagascar sequel. The first one lacked something I never could quite put my finger on. I remember thinking it would have done better if they just made the penguins the main characters, an idea that Nickelodeon scooped up and is currently in production. The characters are each unique and done well, Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo, Marty the zebra, and David Schwimmer—I mean, Melman the giraffe. Each of them has great style and a different personality; the first Madagascar just lacked good storytelling.

In Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, the writers seem to explore what would have happened to the animals if they crash landed in Africa after being trapped in Madagascar instead of making it back to New York. It was a little confusing to even me, and I’m a college-educated adult who survived film classes that attempted to teach experimental filmmaking. After figuring out that plot fart, we have to back track to Alex the lion’s (Ben Stiller) childhood to see his origin story which is he was born in Africa to the alpha lion of the pride, but, due to his daydreaming and playful nature, gets caught by poachers and finds his way to the New York zoo.

Aside from Alex’s story, Gloria, Melman and Marty seem to find the rest of their own species and really mesh with them. Though, through learning more about their own kind they all realize how important their friendship to each other is and it’s heartwarming and crap. Alex ends up saving the day and gains approval from his mother and father, Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman, are together at last, and I suppose Marty (Chris Rock) realizes he is not special or unique in any way. So his story is kind of a downer, somehow you don’t walk away with that feeling, so it works.

The issues I had with the film surprisingly weren’t many. It rubbed me the wrong way whenever the lions got into a fistfight with the little old Jewish lady because they were punching her and clawing her and that’s just weird to watch. I understood what they were going for, but for some reason it came off as creepy. Again, it lacked penguins. Everyone knows the penguins run this little “franchise”, one would think Dreamworks would have took note and featured more penguin antics in the sequel. I did really enjoy Alex the lion’s story, it was a solid plot about how we’re all desperately seeking our parents approval and how eventually parents have to give in and learn to understand what their children want in their own lives instead of what the parents want them to become. Then they name Alex’s father, the king of the jungle, Zuba and the first thing I think of is neon puffy pants from the ’80s that huge, muscley, jocks wore to the gym. Unfortunately, the butt of my observation is voiced by the late Bernie Mac.

No matter how you look at it I was very pleasantly surprised by Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. It was entertaining and funny and, though it had many plots at once, still came together nicely. There’s one more good one for Dreakworks Animation, even though I still think Shrek sucks.

Lauren Sepanski is a writer and animation connoisseur living in Hollywood, CA.



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