Musical numbers in animated movies make me smile, and I love to see lots of them in films of this genre. Too bad Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa includes only a couple of dancing lion sequences. There are many missed opportunities here. Why not a chorus of kicking zebras? Or a group of tapping penguins? Or a hippo hip-hop routine? Or -- well you see what I mean. Although the main characters are sometimes fun to watch in this colorful sequel, they’re not given much of a story to work with, and putting them through a few musical paces would have helped considerably.
Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) can’t forget his fame as “The King of New York” when he resided in the Big Apple’s zoo. He danced his way to that title, and New Yorkers loved him for it. Now, however, Alex faces an audience of a very different kind. He and his friends, animals who escaped and found themselves in Madagascar during their first adventure, have been propelled into an African setting -- one where they meet others like themselves. The only difference? These African creatures have been raised in a natural habitat, not in the big city, so problems adjusting are inevitable for both groups.
In a farfetched coincidence, Alex gets reunited with his family here. His father (voiced by the late Bernie Mac) is the Alpha Male, but his wicked uncle (voiced with delicious malice by Alec Baldwin) wants to usurp that power and will do anything to obtain it, including setting up Alex for a fall. It will take cooperation from Melman the Giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer), Marty the Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) and Gloria the Hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) -- as well as the wise-guy penguin gang and their new monkey underlings -- to make sure the manipulative uncle doesn’t triumph. Obstacles along the way include a water shortage, a tough granny (voiced by Elisa Gabrielli) from New York and her tourist friends, plus King Julien’s (voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen) plans to sacrifice someone in a fiery volcano.
Rich animation gives Madagascar 2 a look that’s easy on the eye, the penguins are amusing, and the banter between Alex the Lion and Max the Zebra evokes a few chuckles, but the movie mostly lumbers on without much pizzazz. Toddlers in the audience at the screening I attended were very restless. But, hey, so was I. Still, one important question from the film lingers in my mind: are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?
(Released by DreamWorks and rated “PG” for mild crude humor.)
For more information about Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, please go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.