February 3, 2009 -- The original Madagascar (2005), aside from some entertaining psychotic penguins, was a mediocre movie. Since sequels are generally worse than the original, this did not bode well for “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.” Fortunately, this is one of those rare sequels that is better than the original film. The plot is much better and so are the characterizations.
In this episode, the penguins have rebuilt an airplane found on Madagascar and all of the animals, plus the king lemur and his assistant from Madagascar, board the plane to fly back to New York. The airplane runs out of gas over Africa, stranding the animals once again. In time, however, the animals discover that Africa, and not the zoo in New York, is their real home. Marty the zebra is overjoyed when he joins a large herd of zebras. Later, he has second thoughts when he finds that he is just like everyone else. He seems to have lost his individuality. Melman the giraffe uses his veterinary experience to become a witch doctor among the giraffes, but he is still too shy to tell Gloria the hippopotamus about his true feelings for her.
Of all the animals, Alex the lion seems to be most at home at first. He discovers his homeland (shown in a flashback at the beginning of the film). His homecoming is ruined by a treacherous lion named Makunga, who fools Alex into being banished from the pride. It is all part of Makunga's plan to become the king of the lions. Alex hopes to use his street smarts to get back in the pride's graces. The penguins ambush tourists and steal their vehicles in order to gather enough parts to rebuild the plane. Gloria the hippo thinks she has found true love when she meets the hippo stud Moto Moto. Melman becomes depressed and plans to end it all by sacrificing himself to the local volcano, part of lemur King Julien's mad scheme to get water to return to the parched plains. The little old lady who once beat up Alex is back as a tourist and she is as tough as ever. She molds the stranded tourists into a tough new jungle tribe.
The characters seem better developed this time and the story lines are stronger. This film also has more heart than the original. It has more of a sense of family. I found myself rooting for Alex to save the pride and restore his family to glory. Marty, Melman and Gloria all had interesting interactions with the African plains animals. Those pirate-like penguins are as entertaining as ever, especially when they try to negotiate a labor deal with a bunch of apes. There was yet another comic reference to a well-known episode of “The Twilight Zone,” as there was in the first film. This is a funny and heartwarming family film. It rates a C+.
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