In theaters November 7th 2008

“Get ready to laugh your crack-a-lackin off.”

The sweet smell of sequel success. It is very difficult to pull off a sequel that stays true to the previous film yet has enough originality to hold its own. We can all think of films that have flopped due to trying to bank off the popularity of the cast or story while having nothing to offer in the way of creativity or originality. DreamWorks decided to take the risk with Madagascar 2 and are cocky enough that they already have Madagascar 3 scheduled for 2011. But they have nothing to worry about. What works for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a template that all sequel films should try and follow whenever possible. It isn’t a tough standard and almost seems like a no brainer. Take what worked in the first one and increase those elements while being careful not to simply rehash. Also, keep the story simple and moveable. Especially in an animated comedy.

In this installment we find our four, four legged friends trying to return to New York. When they end up in Africa instead, they discover a whole new world and learn a lot about themselves and each other. Alex (Ben Stiller-v) finds he has an entire family he never knew existed while Marty (Chris Rock-v) comes to terms with what true originality looks like. All the while Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith-v) hunts for a man and Melman (David Schwimmer-v) tries to man-up to his true feelings. There is a lot said in this film about acceptance and being who you are. Not conforming to societies or individuals interpretation of what you should and shouldn’t be. Alex’s dad (Bernie Mac-v) is the alpha lion of the tribe and as happy as he is with his sons return, he still wants him to be the King of the jungle. And he has a preconceived idea of how that should look. When they join forces to overcome a revenge seeking lion (Alec Baldwin-v) they have to rely on each others strengths.

But all of that would only have made for a mediocre film that would fall far short of its predecessor. Where the films creators succeeded was in realizing the comedy and scene stealing the penguins did in the original and allowing them more screen time here. The funniest and I mean laugh out loud funny moments in this film come from these black and white flightless birds. They are as sharp and quick and ruthless as before and take this picture from a midgrade kid film to adult worthy animation. Another smart move was having King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) return but only enough to keep him hilarious without saturation. He is good in the small parts he has and this makes him funny without becoming obnoxious. Again, he has the most quotable lines and comes close to stealing the film. This was due to the leash they decided to keep him on.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is rated PG for some mild crude humor. It is perfect for kids of all ages and has more than enough to keep the adults tuned in. I was literally laughing at some points until my sides hurt. Also, intended or not, it does show that being different is not always a bad thing. That fitting a mold is good in context but never if it stifles creativity and uniqueness. I think we all need a lesson in tolerance and in looking at our friends and family through eyes of love and acceptance. As Bill Cosby used to always say, “if you aren’t careful, you might learn something before it’s done”. I give this animated journey 4 out of 5 flight plans. Now let’s all go have fun before we come to our senses.

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Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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