Film Flashback: Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa (2008)

Party animal Julien the lemur (Sasha Baron Cohen) explains the fine points of wooing a girl to Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer).

You have to appreciate a sequel where the creators are smart enough to focus on the best part of the original as “Madagascar 2: Return to Africa” kicks off with a song and dance number of the far too catchy “I Like to Move it, Move It.”

Seriously, try to get that song out of your head after hearing it for two minutes. You’ll be bobbing your head and tapping your feet in no time. [2012 Flash Forward – Thanks, now I’ve got that song stuck in my head too.]

If only the rest of the sequel was remotely as unforgettable.

It picks up right where the surprisingly successful [2012 Flash Forward the success of this franchise has clearly escaped me] original left off with Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) set to return to their home at the New York Central Zoo.

Their plane crashes and they find themselves in Africa where there’s far more of their own kind frolicking around enjoying the lay of the land. Coincidentally enough, they crashed at the same area where Alex’s father Zuba (the late Bernie Mac) is king and Zuba can’t wait for his son to take his rightful place as king of the jungle. Unfortunately, Alex is more performer than big, bad fighter and Zuba’s rival, Makunga (Alec Baldwin) calls for Alex’s banishment leaving him to find his own way to impress his father and extended family. [2012 Flash Forward – The Lion King this ain’t.]

Meanwhile Alex’s pals find life in Africa a lot less stressful but soon come to realize that it might not be the paradise they originally thought.

I’ve never seen an animated feature where the supporting characters are so much more fun than the main cast but once again, the penguins, chimps and lemurs steal the spotlight from Alex and co. [2012 Flash Forward – See also the ONLY reason I’ve remotely enjoyed this franchise. How can you not crack up at the penguins??]

Screenwriter Etan Cohen (“Tropic Thunder”) smartly gives additional screen time to the supporting characters and they provide big laughs like the labor negotiations between the penguins and the chimps complete with blackmail photos.

In an odd and strangely disturbing running joke, several of the characters get into drag down fistfights with an old lady. Given the sponge-like mentality of small children, someone better warn Grandma to watch the little tykes in case they think kicking and punching elderly folk looks like so much fun they want to try it too. Just because it’s animals doing it doesn’t make it cute or funny. [2012 Flash Forward – And coming down off of soapbox…]

The not quite age-appropriate content continues with Gloria getting the urge to find a mate, which leads to some pretty raunchy jokes for a PG audience. Most of them should go above kids’ heads but the main audience isn’t likely teens and adults and as such, comes off as totally unnecessary.

Again, the animation is perfectly acceptable but not quite so breathtaking that you’ll want to buy it to show off your Blu-Ray player or anything. The actors give quality, performances and don’t sound like they’re just reading lines off into a mic. You can almost picture them expressively acting out their scenes in the sound booth.

It’s just the story and characters aren’t very interesting no matter how loud and crazy the scenarios get.

If you weren’t particularly enamored with the first one, chances are this isn’t gonna change your opinion on the Madagascar cast and even if you did enjoy the first one you might find it similar to a trip to the zoo – fun every once in awhile but not worth sticking revisiting for a few more years. [2012 Flash Forward – Until Madagascar 3 that is!!! This is the series that tries to be all things to everyone and succeeding with no one.]

2012 Film Flashback rating: 4 out of 10