Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa

We're still looking for the punchline
Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett-Smith
Directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

Sitting down to watch Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa, I quickly realized that I remembered almost nothing about the original Madagascar.

After sitting down and watching Madagascar 2, I find that I already remember very little of it. If you’ve seen one group of animated animals, ultimately you’ve seen them all. This is a pedestrian sequel to a pedestrian original. So a lion, a hippo, a giraffe, and a zebra hop into a plane …. If you’re expecting a punch line, I guess it’s fair to say that there are a few. But when this group of animals on vacation from the Central Park Zoo crash-land into the African savannah, it never quite finds enough good punch lines to earn its pride. Or its herd?

The greatest attention falls on the antics of Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), whose showmanship has given him the nickname The King of New York. His accidental trip to Africa plops him right in the middle of a power struggle in his old pride, between his father and his enemy. While watching Alex, I kept thinking that he was the least interesting character. His showmanship, dancing, and diva act gets repetitive. But then we turn to the other animals – the hippo and her romance with the beefy hippo. The hypochondriac giraffe and his … what was he doing exactly, again? Fortunately, there are some definite chuckles with Chris Rock’s zebra, suffering an identity crisis in an endless herd of identical black and white stripes.

The best thing about the films continues to be the musical sequences, which often are loopy fun. The film does smooth out the look of the animation when compared to the first film. The original Madagascar was plagued by the uncomfortably angular nature of its figures. That problem fades. If there’s one group of animals that have been consistently funny in the two films, it is the foursome of jaded, resourceful penguins.

In this one, they steal a jeep, fix a plane, and conduct labor negotiations with monkeys. It’s like they ‘ve flown in (well not flown)from a different film – the consistently funny animated adventure next door. Which raises a troubling question.

Should a comedy need comic relief?