After the success of Madagascar (and subsequent Penguins spin-offs), it was inevitable that we’d get a sequel. Fans of the original got treated to more of what made the first film so entertaining, with more jokes, character developments and an all-new setting to take in, Madagascar 2 certainly didn’t disappoint those who were fans of the original. With a huge budget of $150 million, the film made more than enough domestically to cover its production and by the time overseas tickets were factored in, the $150 million budget was nearly quadrupled worldwide.
Your favorite castaways are back – still together and still lost! One of the top movies of the year, DreamWorks Animation’s MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is “even better than the first!” (Mark Hyman, FOX-TV). You’ll laugh out loud as this outrageous comedy takes you on an African adventure like no other. With Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Sacha Baron Cohen return, along with newcomers to the series Alec Baldwin, Will I Am, and the late Bernie Mac.
I really enjoyed the first Madagascar and while I wasn’t eagerly awaiting the sequel, I was still interested in seeing it. What’s nice is the film picks up immediately where the first one left off and right away the influx of jokes start pouring out, which is truly what makes this film so entertaining. While Cohen steals nearly every scene he’s in as Julien, the entire cast of this one really does a remarkable job all around. The voice work was truly some of the best I’ve heard when it comes to big-names behind the mics and the addition of Alec Baldwin was quite nice, as I’ve become quite accustomed to hearing his voice every week on 30 Rock.
Despite being an all new film, however…there really isn’t a whole lot here to talk about. Our characters find themselves in new situations and scenarios and the only character who really ends up growing in this whole film is Schwimmer’s Melman, who finally professes his love for Smith’s Gloria. It’s an interesting turn of events, but when it comes to these types of films that are all-ages, it’s hard to really fault it when it doesn’t move every character forward in a specific way. Hell, I’m pretty sure that’s not why they even made this sequel, it was just a natural progression for Melman.
The other characters were all entertaining as well, with Stiller’s Alex continuing his entertainer persona and juxtaposed “leader” of the group, while Rock’s Marty ends up finding himself mixed in with a pack of zebra’s that all look and sound the same as he does (and there’s an obligatory joke about that as well, so don’t worry if you felt bad for thinking it—the film actually throws it out in the open as well). Oddly enough the Penguins were absent for most of the film (what you saw of them in the trailers was nearly all they had in the film itself), but like Julien every time they were on-screen they often stole the show.
While the films story is overly simple and won’t burden you down with complicated plotlines, it’s the little things that make the film such a treat. Sight gags, humorous dialogue, and entertaining characters lend itself to easily be one of the more entertaining CGI animal outings of late and the absolutely gorgeous scenery and visuals only help further that idea.
Overall while the film doesn’t really do anything new compared to the first outing, it is entertaining nonetheless. More of the same with improved characters, jokes and scenery, but when it’s as entertaining as Madagascar, more of the same isn’t really a bad thing. Recommended.
While the film doesn’t really look all that packed based on the single-disc Blu-ray release (complete with unassuming grey wash disc art), Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa really is quite a solid package through and through. Menus for the film are simple and easy to navigate and the aforementioned package is empty except for a firmware upgrade notice.
It should really come as no surprise but this superbly animated and looking all-digital, all-CGI film looks stunning on Blu-ray, courtesy of an AVC encoded 1080p transfer. Not a single frame looks out of place and whether it’s the vibrant and vivid details of the African landscape or the individual character models that sport more detail in their fur than my actual skin does, the visuals of this film are simply gorgeous. Deep blacks and rich colors make for an immaculate transfer from beginning to end. You’d have to try pretty hard to screw up a modern film that is all digital and not replicate it perfectly on an all-digital format, so it’s nice to see that Paramount is more than capable of bringing brilliant visuals without flaw (though they’ve certainly hosed some transfers in the past, but never on animation from what I can recall).
The audio, a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, is also quite fantastic. Quite honestly this is a demo disc if you ever wanted to show off your system to five year olds, as the visuals are perfect and the surround usage on this film is quite amazing. Plenty of enveloping sound effects are scattered about the soundtrack, while voices remain clear and distinct in the front channels. Overall a fantastic mix and one worth demoing.
Extras here are quite a varied mix, with the first big extra being the Audio Commentary with directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, and producers Mireille Soria and Mark Swift. It’s a lighthearted and informative commentary with plenty of insight into the film’s production process and how the story for this one came about. Next up are two Blu-ray bonuses, which include Animator’s Corner, a picture-in-picture extra that shows off storyboards and other animation related goodies. In addition there’s a Trivia Track if you’re so inclined to test your Madagascar knowledge while you watch.
The Cast (9:13) is a quick featurette that shows the cast behind the mic, while Making Of (11:05) is a quick and dirty extra that takes us through the film’s production. Crash Landing (3:40) shows the sequence in storyboard form, while African Adventure (7:18) shows the filmmakers journey to Africa to get a feel for how things happen in the real Africa (although they did make one mistake: the animals in this film talk).
Jambo Jambo teaches you how to speak Swahili (in under two minutes, wow!), while The Bronx Zoo (8:17) takes you on a tour of the facility. More Penguins includes two clips of the loveable penguins of the film, while Mad Music is a full selection of music and songs from the film. Test Flight is a quick and pointless game, while finally we have a selection of Trailers to check out. As an added bonus all of the content here is presented in HD (1080i/p).
Overall Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a solid film. Extras are plentiful, if a bit short and pointless, and kids will be endlessly entertained by this one (while adults may get a chuckle or two out of it). The real treat here, however, is the brilliant video and audio, which is well worth checking out. Recommended.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.