Madagascar Escape 2 AfricaWell they’re back. Following 2005’s first adventure which was pretty average but fairly entertaining all in the same breath, the unique visual style of Madagascar returns, this time in the guise of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.

Brought to us by the same team of directors of Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath as the last outing, we do however have a new writer on board, this time a man by the name of Etan Cohen, the same writer who wrote the screenplay for this year’s Ben Stiller comedy, Tropic Thunder. And just like the last time, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa goes straight for credibility’s jugular by loading the entire voice cast with a host of A-list Hollywood celebrities, meaning that back for round two as Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo are Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith respectively, teamed up with the likes of Sascha Baron Cohen as Julien, Cedric the Entertainer as Maurice, Andy Richter as Mort, Bernie Mac as Zuba, Alec Baldwin as Makunga and Will.I.Am as Moto Moto!

The story for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa continues directly on from where the first movie ended off, meaning that the show starts off with our lovable New Yorkers making good their escape from Madagascar thanks to the madcap penguins’ particular ingenuity. Of course, as with all things penguin driven, their escape plan doesn’t exactly do off without a hitch and before long our intrepid zoo outcasts find themselves stranded in the middle of Africa, killing time while the penguins hatch up a new rescue plan.

Things get turned on their head just a little as the four split up and each get entangled in their own trials and tribulations, that of which includes a long lost family reunion, doubts over one’s individuality, the search for love and even the search for courage. However even as the animals start dealing with these problems another group finds themselves stranded in Africa – and as events slowly unfold and resolve themselves, these two groups eventually find themselves on a path leading directly to a head on collision – with disastrous consequences if left unchecked!

On the story front, it must be said that Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa simply tries to do to much in one movie. There are about six simultaneous story threads that run, all of which gets neatly resolved and thus leaves you with a movie that sometimes feels like it is trying to pack just that little bit too much story into one small package. That said, it is a complete movie in that it starts out neatly, ends off neatly and leaves no little thread hanging around so that it can annoy anyone. And on top of that, it actually makes you laugh – a lot.

There are tons of cultural, musical and just plain silly puns, jokes and circumstances to take in, and on the humour front Madagascar certainly doesn’t miss, taking any cheap shot that it can lay its hands on in order to pull a laugh. But it works. There are some genuinely funny sequences that will have both young and old laughing and this is essential because this is what makes Madagascar watchable – it’s a silly, over the top little romp designed to tell a story but more importantly to let you walk out of that cinema feeling like a million bucks. And simply put, that it does.

Visually, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa continues with its rather unique and almost cardboard cutout look that makes it stand apart from other fully CG animated movies, the most of which are always for some or other reason trying to put a lot of emphasis on perfecting physics and natural light phenomena, just so as to wow us audiences that extra little bit.

Instead, Madagascar takes the approach of making its characters as colourful and humorous-looking as possible, forgoing the need for visual perfection and instead concentrating on producing amusing, vibrant and entertaining visuals to complement its often wacky story elements.

In terms of the voice acting, with such a cast of respected actors voicing the majority of the characters, Madagascar simply doesn’t put a foot wrong. Each and every one of the guys are now well and truly comfortable in their roles and each and every one of the on screen characters simply wrap themselves around their associated voice over artist, making it a perfect, almost indistinguishable match. And soundtrack-wise, Madagascar simply just doesn’t disappoint either. Clever, diverse music choice and some excellent compositions from the Will.I.Am and Hans Zimmer collaboration makes for an aural masterpiece, funky, uplifting and just a whole lot of fun, rounding off the entire Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa package perfectly.

So in short, if you are looking for a fun, colourful movie that will have you and your kids laughing out loud, then Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa will certainly not disappoint. The story is a little bit long winded and jumps around too much thanks to all the plot threads it tries to work through, but if it keeps you laughing every step of the way then you’ll probably, like me, overlook this one little flaw. Great fun, a polished and well shined package and an absolutely wonderful entry into the Madagascar franchise, this is one holiday kid’s movie you really should make an effort and go and see.

(…or else the penguins just might get you!)

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