Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a pun that speaks for itself. The success of Madagascar made it the first non-Shrek DreamWorks Animation sequel. Although I’ll always have a soft spot for the first movie, Escape 2 Africa is a major improvement that was more warmly received. I wasn’t sure how they’d make a sequel away from the titular Madagascar, but setting things in Africa was a stroke of genius that allowed each character to have more depth. While retaining the cartoony antics and party feel that we’ve seen before. Escape 2 Africa begins with Alex the lion’s backstory. Turns out he was the son of the lion king who ended up seperated thanks to poachers. The adorable little cub washed up in New York and was quickly placed in the Central Park Zoo along with his equally adorable future friends Marty, Melman, and Gloria. The latter is of course voiced by Willow Smith. A news story recaps the events of Madagascar and the gang is reintroduced while singing “I Like to Move It.” Since the boat was out of gas, they take a makeshift slingshot plane instead. Which is operated by the scene stealing penguins. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private became so popular that they got their own spin-off Nickelodeon series The Penguins of Madagascar.
Sacha Baron Cohen was also too memorable as King Julien, so he leaves Madagascar just to stay in the adventure. Cedric the Entertainer’s Maurice is moreso on the same page with Julien, but Andy Richter’s Mort is hilariously abandoned. After a comedically over-the-top plane crash, the New york zoo animals find themselves in their ancestral home where they each have their own separate experience. The computer animation used for Africa is majestic, but now several more animals like elephants, ostriches, and flamingos had to be stylized the same way as the characters we’ve already met. Much like The Lion King, Ben Stiller is white, but his King & Queen parents are both black. The late great Bernie Mac shines as Alex’s alpha lion father Zuba and Sherri Shepherd voices his caring mother. Alex’s main conflict is his dancing lion routine clashing with his father’s fighting traditions. Meanwhile, Marty deals with the fact that he’s virtually identical to a dazzle of zebra who are all voiced by Chris Rock. Since Melman & Gloria were both side characters in the first movie, they’re given a very unexpected subplot. Melman becomes the giraffe’s witch doctor and Gloria is looking for love among the hippos. Something she thinks she finds with the chunky chasing Moto Moto. A hippo voiced by will.i.am doing his self-described “deep chocolate” voice. There’s definitely a lot more butt shaking than the first movie.
The unexpected part is Melman being revealed to have always been in love with Gloria. David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith are already complete opposites, but it’s also the fact that they’re a giraffe and hippo. I thought it would just be a throw away joke, but they ended up being one of the sweeter animated interspecies couples. Meanwhile, the penguins use Mason & Phil’s opposable thumbs to help rebuild the plane with the help of other chimps. When the watering hole dries up, Julien gets the crazy idea to sacrifice a “dying” Melman to a volcano. It’s another so-so climax, but it’s still way better than The Wild. Escape 2 Africa actually has 2 villains. The animal antagonist is Alec Baldwin as the smug lion Makunga who usurped the throne. More unexpected is the fact that the old lady who beat up Alex in the first movie is promoted to human antagonist. Her inhuman strength is just as hilarious the second time around. Nana is part of a tour group that ends up blocking the water. In the end, the gang return the water and Skipper takes the plane on a Monte Carlo honeymoon with a hula girl. As Alex, Marty, Gloria, and Melman realize they’re home, the end credits close out the sequel with an African rendition of “I Like to Move It.” The scenery change made Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa a follow up worth singing about.