Making the Grades
After escaping from their comfortable digs at the New York City zoo in their first film adventure, Marty the zebra (voice by Chris Rock) and his friends found themselves washed up on the shore of Madagascar where they encountered a group of crazy lemurs. Now having had enough of the rainforest critters, Marty, Alex the lion (voice by Ben Stiller), Gloria the hippo (voice by Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (voice by David Schwimmer) are eager to return to civilization in Central Park.
However, securing a return trip ticket won't be easy. The only plane flying out of the lemur airfield is made up of patched together parts and ratcheted into a catapult. Manned by a parcel of flight-challenged penguins, the aircraft (complete with a couple of decaying skeletons) is ready to take off. Boarding the rickety wreck, the four friends, along with the lemur leader and his assistant (voices by Sacha Baron Cohen and Cedric the Entertainer), put their lives in the hands of the penguin skipper (voice by Tom McGrath) and his bird-brained crew.
But this makeshift jet isn't destined for distance. With one engine spewing smoke and the control panel flashing, the plane and its passengers soon find themselves freefalling from the sky and landing unceremoniously in the middle of an African animal reserve. There the furry fugitives stumble upon free-running herds of zebras, giraffes and hippos along with a pride of lions. With a stronger storyline than the original Madagascar, this African adventure introduces these city slickers to the wild side of their species and life on the open plains.
Unfortunately, the script also introduces audiences to plenty of potty humor and anatomical jokes. Needing more than a lion trainer to tame down the one-liners of edgy comedians like Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen, the humor in this film is an odd clash of adult and kid quips. While most of the crude references to body parts, interspecies relationships and sexual sparring between two hefty hippos will hopefully be lost on very young viewers, much of the cartoon violence won't. Along with injured groins, animal characters in this film are kidnapped, shot at with arrows and guns, roasted over a fire and sacrificed in a lava-filled volcano. Run over by animals that are driving a car, a cranky, elderly female tourist (voice by Elisa Gabrielli) also exchanges brutal punches and martial arts moves with Alex on several occasions.
With remarkable animation and a script that heralds the importance of individuality, personal talents and friendship, it's too bad the moviemakers didn't crack the whip just a few more times to keep the unfriendly content in this film at bay.