Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is the rare sequel that rises above the original, and in this case it’s able to rise over its title, too. The main characters from the first movie are all back, along with the original voice actors (plus a few new ones, including the late Bernie Mac), but the story and jokes are refreshingly new and different.
Despite the title, Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo, and Melman the giraffe leave Madagascar in the first few minutes of the movie, and they don’t exactly escape, but rather are simply trying to return to New York. Considering that they’re flying in an old broken-down plane that’s been repaired and is being flown by penguins, it should not be surprising that they don’t get very far. Serendipitously, they manage to get to the very wildlife reservation on which Alex was born, and run into his parents shortly after crash-landing.
The story has two main parts: a classic father-learning-to-understand-his-son’s-differences story centered on Alex, and Melman’s figuring out how to deal with his unexpressed love for Gloria. The minor plots center on Marty, and the fact that every single other zebra looks and sounds exactly like him; and on a group of New Yorkers (humans, that is) who get stranded by the penguins while on safari. The stories are well done, but the movie wouldn’t be nearly as good without its humor.
This is a movie full of laughs, from crude ones at the fact that the animals’ rear ends are rendered in way more detail than necessary, to a great joke based on a geeky reference to a classic science fiction TV show episode (any more detail might spoil the joke, and I don’t want to risk that—if you’re a geek, just trust me, you’ll get the joke and you’ll laugh). The penguins are just as hilarious as they were in the first movie, with their ultra-serious military-style behavior boiling over into even more ridiculous situations than before.
My kids (six and nearly-eight) had a blast, surviving the few scary moments with little difficulty. It’s rated PG due to "some mild crude humor," but there’s certainly nothing terribly objectionable here. There are some jokes, like the aforementioned geeky one, that only adults are likely to get. Adults may wonder about the biological implications of a giraffe and a hippo falling in love, but I doubt many kids will.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a poorly-named but well-made movie, available in regular movie theatres and on some IMAX screens. I highly recommend it.