Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath
Upping the drama, quashing the crudity and pulling out all the animation stops, the Madagascar sequel proves to be a tamer and talkier sequel with a seriously dull message of proving oneself, perhaps because the message that "bullying is bad” was taken.

Kiddies will most certainly be more amused than their parents, who may spend much of the film wondering what sexual intercourse between a giraffe and a hippopotamus might look like. Here’s a hint: messy, painful and bendy.

Picking up where the action left off after the first film, the gang develops a makeshift flying contraption in an effort to slingshot themselves across a few continents from Madagascar to New York. As before, the group is comprised of Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller), the sissy lion, Marty (Chris Rock), the sassy (read: obnoxious) zebra, Melman (David Schwimmer), the hypochondriac giraffe, and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith), the pragmatic and curvy hippo.

When their mission understandably fails — it was manned by overzealous penguins after all — they wind up in Africa where Alex is promptly identified by family members as the missing son of chief Zuba (Bernie Mac), which ruffles the feathers of Makunga (Alec Baldwin), a lion whose nefarious scheme was to take the throne that will now go to Alex. Inevitably, a series of tests and trials come about that humorously reveal Alex’s ineptitude as a kept zoo lion.

Meanwhile, Marty gets involved with local zebras and copes with issues of individuality, Gloria deals with a gentleman caller who is interested mainly in her corpulence and Melman tries to figure out how to profess his love for Gloria.

While the scenarios, plot trajectory and overall themes are overly familiar, a tendency to step away from sentimentality with strangely unpredictable interruptions keeps the film alive while viewing, which is a good thing, as it is almost instantly forgettable.

Regardless of its slight nature, fans of the original should find much enjoyment here and fans of animation should check out the attention to detail on display. (Dreamworks)