Release Date: Nov. 7
Director: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath
Writer: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Ethan Cohen
Starring: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith
Studio/Run Time: ?DreamWorks Animation, 89 mins.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa borrows so much of its plot from The Lion King that it’s fortunate it steers away from the drama of Disney’s film and heads straight for the funnies. After a flashback, where baby Alex the lion is taken away from his family in Africa and rescued by the Central Park Zoo, the film picks up where Madagascar left of, with the four friends—Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith)—trying to leave the island. They take off in the carcass of a crashed plane piloted by the quartet of penguins, who again steal the show every time they’re on the screen. Also tagging along are a pair of lemurs, King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen) and attendant Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer)—in the first-class cabin, of course.
The plane has only enough fuel to make it to the mainland, and the animals wind up back in their ancestral grounds, full of other lions, zebras, giraffes and hippos. It’s paradise found until the domesticated Alex realizes he’s more of a dancer than a fighter and is banished. But the meat on the skeleton bones of the plot is made up of sight gags, often-funny jokes and the delightful secondary characters that made the first film so fun. Even the film’s dramatic villain Makunga (Alec Baldwin)—as similar to Scar as you can get without getting sued—gives way to the film's comedic villain Nana, the elderly woman who beat up Alex in Madagascar. She’s a nemesis you love as she whips her fellow tourists into jungle-ready shape. Ethan Cohen co-wrote the script with directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, and the quirkiness of the characters rises above the thinness of the story, to make for a fun—if not particularly rich—hour and a half for the kids.