Back To 'Madagascar,' Tamely But With Bounce Four New York zoo animals tiptoe their way through the wild — this time in East Africa. A herd of celebrity voices powers the computer-animated comedy, but the razzle-dazzle feels a little dated.
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Back To 'Madagascar,' Tamely But With Bounce

Like father like son: Alex (Ben Stiller) is unexpectedly reunited with his father, Makunga (the late Bernie Mac) as he and his friends set out across the vast African plains. DreamWorks/Paramount hide caption

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DreamWorks/Paramount

Like father like son: Alex (Ben Stiller) is unexpectedly reunited with his father, Makunga (the late Bernie Mac) as he and his friends set out across the vast African plains.

DreamWorks/Paramount

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

  • Director: Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
  • Genre: Animated, Comedy
  • Running Time: 89 minutes

Rated PG for some mild crude humor.

Watch Clips

'Alpha Male'

'Flying First Class'

'Who Put You In Charge?'

You look familiar: Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Alex the Lion and Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) encounter species of their own kind for the first time. DreamWorks/Paramount hide caption

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DreamWorks/Paramount

You look familiar: Melman the Giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), Alex the Lion and Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock) encounter species of their own kind for the first time.

DreamWorks/Paramount

You can take Madagascar's critters out of New York (that is, the Central Park Zoo), but you can't take New York (that is, Broadway) out of them. The second installment in DreamWorks' funny-animals franchise is pitched to kiddies, yet it's stuffed with show-biz references that may be too ancient even for the target audience's chaperones.

A modest improvement on the 2005 original, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa continues the adventures of four displaced zoo animals: Alex the metrosexual lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the smart-mouthed zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the Seinfeldian giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the girly hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). Also joining them on their adventures are some industrious penguins, a few maniacal lemurs and two leftist chimpanzees.

With the penguins at the controls of a battered old airplane, the mild-mannered beasts depart Madagascar for New York. But the contraption falls out of the sky somewhere near Barack Obama's paternal homeland, crashing into what smart-mouthed Marty calls "our ancestral crib."

Descending into the Great Rift Valley, the gang is soon reunited with Alex's parents, who lost their son to poachers when he was just a cub. (Alex's dad, Zuba, played by the late Bernie Mac, is king of the local jungle, but Makunga, voiced by Alec Baldwin, chafes under his rule.)

Echoing The Lion King, the movie has Makunga challenge Alex to a traditional coming-of-age contest. The Manhattanized lion, whose skills include mime and interpretive dance, assumes this will be akin to Dancing with the Stars.

But it's straight-up combat, of course, and Alex loses. An opportunity for redemption, though, arises after the local watering hole dries up. Tiptoeing into ecological-theme territory, Alex and Marty head upstream to find the problem — and to face their most threatening nemesis yet: a combative, apparently Jewish granny from Yonkers.

Meanwhile, Melman tries to overcome his hypochondria long enough to profess his love to Gloria, who's being romanced by a hippo who's part Mack Truck, part Barry White.

The original score, a collaboration between Hans Zimmer and Will.i.am, combines show tunes, hip-hop and ersatz Afro-pop. The other music is not quite so old-fashioned as Wall-E's, but it does include snippets of such venerable numbers as "New York, New York," "Born Free," and "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

There's also Boston's "More Than a Feeling," a few lines from The Patty Duke Show theme and a fruit-basket hat that's pure Carmen Miranda.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa has the bright, brittle look that characterizes computer-generated animation, and a certain desperation to its humor. The gags range from weak puns to vigorous butt-shaking, but they arrive quickly enough that the energy seldom flags. Parents probably won't want to see the movie as often as their kids will — but at least they won't be dreading the in-production Madagascar 3.