This sequel might have some youngsters fidgeting at times, but it is less manic than its predecessor.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa boasts more vibrant animation even if the storyline is rather familiar. With a voice cast led again by Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, it unfolds as a somewhat amusing, if occasionally spontaneous variation on The Lion King.
After our four lost Central Park Zoo animals, led by Stiller's lion Alex and Rock's zebra Marty were stranded in Madagascar, the officiously creative penguins help them try to get back to New York.
Directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath (voice of the chief penguin) take a page from Flight of the Phoenix early on as their aerial apparatus only goes as far as the Serengeti. So, Alex and Marty, in addition to giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) and hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) find their own species around them.
The writing of Etan Cohen focuses on Alex finding his parents, as his dad (the late Bernie Mac) has the same continent paw print. But, Alex is a dancer in appealling to the Big Apple patrons, not a fighter. So, he is vulnerable to the machinations of the unctuous rival lion Makunga (Alec Baldwin). Think Scar.
Escape 2 Africa lets some inneundo creep in amid a certain boisterousness embraced by cast and crew. The notion of understanding is a pervading thought with inter-species relations, survival, and spiritual sacrifice spicing up the proceedings. Sacha Baron Cohen's peppy lemur King Julien is pleasantly impish, as the dialogue and visuals seems to fit into a sense of anarchy. Although, arguably with more calm invention than Madagascar.
The indefatigable granny who gave Alex a beatdown on a subway platform is back among a group of tourists lost in the jungle thanks to the unrelenting penguins. She'll have her day in the sun with Alex, again. Melman proves to be quite the instructor, Marty is amazed by how bright all the look-a-like zebras are, and a lothario hippo with a tenor voice (Will.I.Am) is drawn to Gloria who has another, much taller secret admirer.
Ultimately, this fresh animated assimilation gets its kicks in under the African skies, even if it may be indistinguishable from other wriggling tales of its kind as the comedic influx wanes once predictable nature of the father-son duality runs its course.