Sunday, November 9, 2008

Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa

2008 is almost over, and it has turned out to be a fairly dismal year for movie audiences and critics. This summer's Marvel Vs. DC showoff was between two of only a few exceptions. There are some promising films on the horizon for the holiday season and as Oscar bait. This weekend, however, Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa is your best bet, at least for something light-hearted and family-oriented.

I wasn't sure what to expect going in. I have not seen the first movie. That doesn't actually present a problem, as it turns out, because the movie does a great job of catching the viewer up. A lion cub named Alex escapes hunters and survives an ocean voyage to Manhattan Island, where he becomes a local celebrity and grows up with a giraffe, a hippo and a zebra. The previous film saw them fall in among the creatures of Madagascar after a plane crash. This time, early in the plot, they hatch a scheme to return to New York, in a comically cobbled-together plane, with an equally comic crew. They make it as far as Africa, and find themselves, for the first time, among their own kinds.

At the beginning, the references, quips, and quirk-establishment all comes so fast and furious that it's dizzying. Once the action turns to Africa, however, the tone and the pace of the story even out. There are some jokes that are possibly less than family-friendly, but they are so subtle as to slide under kiddie radar.

There is a lot here that we have seen before: an animal with a unique talent, which creates tension with his parents (Alex would rather dance than fight); an evil lion plotting against the king of the pack and his cub; Eddie Murphy's voice on four feet; funny penguins and monkeys; and a dialogue-free sub-plot involving a chase with a small creature. There is even, arguably, an extended shout-out to Joe vs. the Volcano. However, all of it has enough of a fresh spin to be enjoyable.

The story of Marty the zebra addresses something which I don't think I've seen addressed in kids movie's before; that is the idea that it is okay not to be unique...and that yet, at the same time, you're always more unique than you think you are. Gloria the Hippo finds herself in a classic movie dilemma, one part Walt Disney and one part John Hughes. She is torn between the popular male who only likes her for her for her looks, and a more awkward one who loves her for who she is. (As a fascinating side-note in our weight-obsessed society, the hippos have a “bigger is better” mentality.)

David Schwimmer's Melman was probably my favorite character, and the denouement of an extended shark attack was the thing that made me laugh the hardest. Madagascar 2 was a pleasure, and I look forward both to the first and future installments.


pardes said...

Madagascar Escape 2 Africa it is hot and coolest ever I have just saw the movie. After been waited so long to see it those penguins really can fly. Adventures movie with lot of enthusiasm inside. Melman, King Julien, Maurice, Moto Moto and Zuba are the correctors I loved most. Unbelievable animation work they look real saw the movie at with lot of interest surely it be a biggest ever animation

Angel said...

I just finished watching its part 1 in HD quality @ to compare it to part 2. Well, for me part one is better than that of part 2. However, I still laugh out so loud on part 2. Gloria is really funny!