DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)

    Ben Stiller as ALEX THE LION
    Chris Rock as MARTY THE ZEBRA
    David Schwimmer as MELMAN THE GIRAFFE
    Jada Pinkett Smith as GLORIA THE HIPPO
    Sacha Baron Cohen as KING JULIAN
    Bernie Mac as ZUBA

    Rated PG
    Studio: Paramount/DreamWorks

    Directed by: Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

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The animals from the Central Park Zoo who were stranded on the island of Madagascar, so the lemur empire is attempting to send them back in a plane flown by penguins. However, since penguins can’t fly with or without a plane, they crash land in Africa where Alex the Lion is reunited with his father Zuba. However, Alex is intimidated by his father’s position as ruler, and he tries to fit in. But a scheming lion who wants to be the head of the pride meddles in their business in the hopes to knock Alex (and Zuba) out of the picture.

I really enjoyed the first “Madagascar” movie, especially the parts with the penguins and King Julian. It seems that everyone else did too, which is why the roles of the penguins have been expanded and King Julian has been brought to Africa, along for the ride. Similarly, I enjoyed their moments the most.

This film was very faithful to the first movie and managed to juggle quite a few storylines at once. What continues to be the strength of the “Madagascar” movies is its spunkiness. For as expensive as they are and as high-profile as they are on the studio’s slate, these movies definitely don’t take themselves too seriously. They manage to give a decent story but still pile on the fun.

Additionally, like Paramount’s release of “Kung Fu Panda” with “The Secrets of the Furious Five,” “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is packaged with a DVD of “The Penguins of Madagascar.” This separate DVD release is the launching pad for Nickelodeon’s new show of the same name, and it includes two sub-episodes of the series. Since I consider these little birds to be the heart and soul of the series, I found the bonus DVD to be even better than the main feature.

The biggest obstacle in making a fresh sequel to a successful film is that sometimes the characters don’t fit together right in the second movie. The “Ice Age” films faced this, with the second movie having a decent storyline for one of the characters and weak secondary storylines for everyone else.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is really Alex’s movie, so the other animals get bumped into secondary stories that don’t quite make the grade. If the film was a series of short episodes on television, it might work better. Still, there’s enough going on that’s relatively true to the characters’ original spirits that it works.

Although, I am getting a little tired of Ben Stiller always having to dance in his movies... even if he is just doing the voice.

The features on “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” are quite numerous, offering crew commentary, a spotlight on the Swahili language, making-of features, a look at the development of the African look, a scene-development feature for the plane crash and a DVD game called “Test Flight of Air Penguin.” The best feature, at least for a family with active kids, is the DreamWorks jukebox that features four songs from the “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” soundtrack.

Bonus material on the “Penguins of Madagascar” disc is just as good, featuring spotlights on the animals of Madagascar from the Bronx Zoo, DVD-ROM activities, a look at real-life lions and a dance-off tutorial, again for the family with active kids. Still, the funniest part of this disc includes the hilarious easter eggs that take you to short bits with the penguins and lemurs.

Kids and families, and anyone who loves those stinking penguins if you get the two-pack.

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