Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

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News of a sequel to Madagascar had fans of the film waiting excitedly. After all, the 2005 release was highly exhilarating and spawned quite a fan following.

However, sequels are rarely as interesting as the first versions. Mission Impossible II did better than the MI3, Mummy 2 completely failed at the box office, Spiderman did better than its sequel and so did and The Matrix and Predator.

It's probably because the first version raised the bar so high that expectations from the sequel can't be met. But gladly Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa has proved the curse of the sequel wrong and is as good as its predecessor. It has an intriguing storyline with witty situations and of course our favourite characters.

The story of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa takes up from where Madagascar left off. The original story is about four animals Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo who end up uprooted from the Central Park Zoo in New York which they know and love, and end up in Madagascar by mistake. They are accompanied by four penguins from New York as well - and while they have a great time there they want to go back to the Big Apple.

Escape 2 Africa opens with the scene that the penguins have repaired an old wrecked plane and are preparing to fly Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) back to New York. Along for the ride are a posse of lemurs, including the overbearing alpha Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his aye-aye sidekick Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer).

Unfortunately - or fortunately for the plot - the plane only has enough gas to make it to the African savannah, the very place from which young Alex was kidnapped by hunters as a cub (voiced in flashback by Ben Stiller's toddler son Quinlan). It's there he meets his father, Zuba (Bernie Mac), the leader of the pack and his mother (Sherri Shephard).

The interaction between Alex and his father and the presence of an evil lion, Makunga (Alec Baldwin), who wants to take over Zuba's position brings back memories from The Lion King. Well, though Alex is not Simba but he is as lovable as Simba was... after all he can sing, dance and make you laugh!

The four friends find their roots in Africa and are really glad to be back 'home' but it proves to be problematic to every single one of the zoo expats. Being a trained dancer isn't much help for Alex in the wild where his father wants him to be like other lions - strong and wild! Marty finds being part of a herd of look alikes (all voiced by Rock) is deeply injurious to his sense of self, Melman remains troubled by his unreciprocated love for Gloria and Gloria is excited and finally bored by the heart throbs of hippos, Moto Moto (will.i.am) who is going out with Gloria. All the characters are well knitted with hilarious dialogues and amusing body language.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa focuses more on the Alex-Marty friendship and the Gloria-Melman love story. Alex has always been the star of New York through his dance performances and when he had to 'perform' in the jungle; it turns out to be a wrestling ring, not a dance competition. Too bad for the 'king' of New York! Even Marty walks out of their friendship because Alex couldn't differentiate between him and the other zebras. This is one of the best scenes from the movie.

On the contrary, Melman can't gather the courage to confess his love for Gloria and becomes sick. He is sure that he will die soon and in the midst of this mayhem the two comes closer. The trip that was supposed to be a vacation for them turns out disastrous. But hey, it neither gets boring nor lame. Amidst all the mishaps and fights, the movie holds its share of comic scenes and succeeds in holding it up with grace.

King Julian and the granny, who hates Alex and calls him 'a naughty kitty', are definite show stealers. The rest of the supporting cast, with the special mention of penguins, is extremely entertaining too. Ben Stiller is again the 'King' of the movie while Chris Rock is a perfect best friend.

Though Chris (Marty) had a stronger character in the first version, he was able to make his presence felt with the relatively small but important part. David Schwimmer was as meek and sweet as ever, and Jada Pinkett Smith was a complete woman in every sense from flirting to planning a future life. The other characters that definitely deserve praise are Sacha Baron Cohen and the late Bernie Mac.

A disclaimer though: if you think you won't be addicted to the Madagascar tune this time, you are wrong. By the end of the movie you will definitely be jiving along to 'I like to move it move it. He likes to move it move it. She likes to move it move it/ We like to... move it!'

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