10 November 2008 | diac228
The animation was better, there is a stronger story, there is more heart....but....
The original Madagascar was a break from the typical mold in family animated entertainment; it was fearless, didn't slow down to teach a lesson, and was not afraid of entertaining solely on physical humor. The content was light, but it was so satisfying that it wound up being Dreamwork's second best animated movie of them allbehind Shrek. The zany cast of characters easily exceeds the number of memorable characters in Shrek, and contained more humor and creativity than all of the other Dreamworks animated flicks before and ever since.
In the second installment, you see the writers trying to give the franchise a dosage of heart and sentimentality, which is what made Shrek the instant classic it became. A bit of heart can definitely propel an animated movie into masterpiece status (see Toy Story and Finding Nemo) however this is not the franchise to do it. Madagascar is about the cast and how they interact with each other and the conflict that is presented onto them. While the laughs are definitely here, the attempt for emotion constantly makes this film slows down and keeps it from being a superior installment when placed against the original. That being said, it's still a fun, entertaining, and unpredictable movie that continues the zaniness that made the original a personal guilty pleasure of mine.
In Escape 2 Africa, we follow the New York zoo animals, the psychotic penguins, the monkeys, and the lemur leaders as they unexpectedly are stranded in the middle of Africa. While at first the main four (Marty, Alex, Melman, Gloria) are rather happy at their new environment, they quickly realize that it's not all that it seems, and that their new temporary home is splitting the four apart. In the meantime, the penguins attempt to repair the plane that they accidentally destroyed. The writers did a good job in presenting all sorts of new gags and yet again refrain from referencing pop culture too much (although the Twilight Zone nod was hilarious). But, they couldn't deliver the emotional impact because of one main reason: this franchise wasn't meant to ever slow down in terms of pacing. Like a roller coaster, this movie moves sometimes extremely fast, and then can grind into a halt in the next scene. Lastly the main four don't interact much with each other, but more with the environment. There literally are at least 8 plots happening at oncesome of them are good, some of them aren't.
The voice acting remains decent, but there are fewer lines by the original cast, and more from supporting characters and new characters. Bernie Mac, rest in peace, but his performance was rather bland and could have been done by anyone else. Alec Baldwin didn't have much of a chance to lend his comedic skills either. Yet again, the penguins and Sacha Baron Cohen steal every scene they are in, no matter how mediocre the previous scene was. Cohen (as Julien) has an obvious knack for comedy, and delivers every line perfectly for two movies in a row; not bad at all. Ben Stiller had fewer chances at being funny, as they had to handle all the major slower moments. Chris Rock's role was surprisingly limited, especially for someone who did so well in the original.
The one major improvement from the original was the animation, which was crisp, fluid, and flowed better. Surely it's undeniably no Wall-E (Or even 2007's Ratatouille), but it's still respectably an improvement over previous work. The jokes themselves are hit-and-miss like the original; the only difference is this one has more misses. Plus it's the recurring jokes that are missing; the hula girl, feisty tourist, repetitive herd, and lion-dancing bits all didn't elicit much laughter from the audience, nor from me. We just needed much more Julien, and much more penguin-action. Maybe in the future the focus will shift; in the meantime they are just grabbing all the spotlight and attention.
Bottom Line: Exactly what Scrat did to Ice Age: The Meltdown years ago, we have minor/supporting characters becoming the main hit and running the show. While the original four characters take a backseat and add emotion to a franchise that's too fast-paced for this sort of stuff, we have the penguins and Julien taking over the movie and keeping it from being another totally disappointing animated sequel like every straight-to-video Disney sequel, the ugly Shrek sequels, or Ice Age 2. The entertainment level is still magnificent the second time around, but it won't age as well as the first Madagascar did. Leave the heart to Pixar, because those folks have nailed it perfectly for years. Dreamworks can serve as the escapist cinema in terms of animation, but if they continue imitating and try to outdo Pixar, it will just dampen the quality of all their movies. Madagascar 2 is the prime example of this: purely fun and entertaining until it tries to distribute family values. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is also proof that those hilarious penguins need their own movie, pretty much immediately.
Yes, right now.