Review: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

Directed by: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath | 89 minutes | action, animation, comedy, adventure, family | Original voice cast: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac,, Alec Baldwin, Willow Smith | Dutch voice cast: Hans Somers, Rogier Komproe, Laura Vlasblom, Fred Butter, John Jones, Ruben Fernhout, John Williams, Laura Fygi, Ivo Niehe, Nelly Frijda

At the end of the reasonably entertaining yet somewhat monotonous and meaningless ‘Madagascar’ it seemed unlikely that a sequel could add anything of value. The main characters had acquired one or two traits that had been used enough and the plot in the first film was thin but also closed, so was there still enough inspiration to do something fun for part 2? The answer is: absolutely! The strongest points from part 1 have been taken over and expanded, the characters have found new activities, the jokes are more fun, the pace is higher and the animation is nicer again. The writer/director duo of Eric Barnell and Tom McGrath seem to have given everything and everyone a makeover, which is good news for the film.

‘Madagascar 2’ feels a bit more episodious than its predecessor, as is often the case with this type of sequel. ‘Shrek 2’, ‘Ice Age 2’, but also ‘Pirates of the Caribbean 2’, for example, all seemed less interested in telling a story and more in concatenating comic or spectacular scenes. People waiting for a full, cohesive story may regret this, but it’s also liberating in a way: the burden of introducing the characters and their setting and circumstances is gone, and the jokes and spectacle can start right away. started. However, there is a set-up of the story, in a ‘Lion King’-like atmosphere, where the viewer becomes acquainted with the young cub Alex who plays on the steppe with his father and chases butterflies. Then Makunga appears, a large lion with James Dean haircut, who – like Scar in ‘The Lion King’ – has a desire to deceive the father from the throne. Alex is captured by humans and moments later he finds his place in the New York zoo where he encounters the cute-looking young versions of Marty, Gloria, and Melman. So much for the introduction.

The real beginning of the film is where the first film left off, on the island of Madagascar, when our heroes were about to leave. It turns out they’ve constructed a catapult that hilariously blasts a broken plane. But it’s not just the party’s four zoo animals, but also comedic favorites from part 1 favorites, the penguins, King Julien, Maurice and the chimpanzees, all with bigger roles this time around, which really benefits the film. The “bad kitty” female from part 1 even got a prominent role this time. Her scenes aren’t always thigh-smacking, but she often makes a good laugh. Again and again she happens to run into Alex the lion, after which the two get into a one-on-one fist/purse fight. These fights are wonderfully over the top where both lion and female whack hard and things are not shunned like driving over the indestructible lady with a jeep. Very funny is that at the end of every hyperactive fight – in which she shows an agility that would make the best gymnast and kung fu specialist jealous – she stumbles away like a typical old lady with a walking stick and small steps.

Not only are the minor characters elaborate and funny, even the main characters seem to have undergone a transformation. Ben Stiller now seems to be more in his element as lion Alex and the animation is more closely intertwined with his personality. In Alex’s movements and facial expressions you often recognize the actual actor Stiller as a viewer. Gloria is cuter and more seductive, with her pretty Hippopotamus curves and flashing eyelashes, at least Melman now does something other than whine about aches and pains, and even gets involved in a dramatic personal story, and Marty has a mild identity crisis when he meets other zebras. who look exactly like him. It’s this last story element that comes across as a little tiresome and creates a somewhat contrived conflict with Marty’s friend Alex. The “quarrel” between the two friends seems to have been inserted mainly because there was a need for more drama or content in the film.

However, this hyped drama hadn’t been necessary. The question is, of course, how long a film will remain interesting if a real story is not present or hardly relevant, but the pace and entertainment value of ‘Madagascar 2′ is so high in the first half hour that it could have gone on for a while. But no, there appears to be a need again from the creators to insert a boring and trite story about Alex’s coming of age, his relationship with his father, and the wiles of rival Makunga to ascend the throne. Also, there seems to be a need to depict tiresome “Happy Feet” thematics about Alex’s being different and convey a message of acceptance to viewers. It’s all a bit too old and unnecessarily moralistic. But it does make for a funny fighting match, which Alex thought was supposed to be dancing. So Alex – just like Ben Stiller himself did in ‘Starsky & Hutch’ – does a hip dance, to the signature tune of ‘West Side Story’, and is then knocked down by his opponent with one blow. Very funny, but maybe not quite consistent with part 1, where he clearly showed he can fight when he had to fight off the Foosas.

‘Madagascar 2′ may have a compulsory story running through the film, but this should absolutely not spoil the fun. This second encounter is an improvement in almost every area. This is also reflected in small things, such as facial expressions. For example, the close-ups of the faces in the cockpit of the plane are often so dryly comic that they rival similar shots in the best Pixar films. Especially close-ups of Melman’s goofy head, with his protruding teeth and silly look, are masterful. In addition, it is of course a nice bonus that the animation seems to have been improved again, with more details everywhere: in the faces and skin of the animals, and the wooded environments where they move. It becomes even more beautiful when this film is watched in an IMAX theater, where the higher resolution gives the image a depth, which gives the viewer an almost 3D experience. It should be clear: ‘Madagascar 2′ is one big party.

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