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Madagascar was a cartoon and a good one. The difference between an animated movie and a cartoon is plot, which in the case of Madagascar was always paper thin. In the first film, story was minimized in favor of wacky, Looney Tunes style humor and it worked the way any good big-screen Bugs Bunny style novelty act should. In the sequel, solid story has been pushed even further aside, and while the animals retain their wit the cracks are showing.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa finds Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, Melman the Giraffe, and the rest boarding a cobbled together, penguin piloted airplane for the long ride home to New York. Unfortunately penguins aren’t known for their flying skills and they crash in Africa, their ancestral home. Alex is reunited with his parents, Marty joins a herd, Gloria meats a chunky-sexy hippo named Moto Moto, and Melman is… well… sick.
There’s not much here for even the youngest kids to sink their teeth into; it’s typical homecoming, save the herd stuff and it breezes by so fast that it’ll feel like the movie belongs squeezed into a Saturday morning, half-hour block of cereal-selling kiddie entertainment. Missing is the original’s carefully constructed, almost lyrical waves of cartoony gags and wacky asides set to pulse pounding, hip-hop beats. Madagascar 2 is so slapdash and rushed that it makes Madagascar 1 look complex.
The first film at least made some effort to deliver an appropriately cinematic adventure. It had scope, it had scale. Madagascar 2 does not. It happens mostly in one location, it’s focused squarely on the four main protagonists, and the brilliant side characters which made the original movie so funny are relegated to caulk squeezed into the gaps left when the script starts to run out of gas.
Madagascar 2 may not be particularly daring or innovative, but it doesn’t get stale. It never holds still long enough to fall flat, and new additions to the cast like Alec Baldwin and Bernie Mac help keep old gags fresh. This is an inferior sequel, but one which still contains plenty of laughs. Madagascar 2 runs off the cliff, looks down, and plummets towards the ground. We’re there to chuckle at the little puff of dust that follows its flattening impact. Though it arrives without a decent tale to tell, Madagascar 2 is good fun. You will laugh, your kids will laugh and you’ll be in the parking lot, full of smiles and on your way home long before realize how hollow this sequel is.