Movie review: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)

After seeing Madagascar and The Penguins of Madagascar, I was ready to see the second Madagascar movie. (The Penguins of Madagascar, a movie devoted to just the penguins, is a later spin-off.) I expected great things.

I was kind of disappointed.

It was great to see the quartet again, accompanied by King Julian and the penguin troupe. But it didn’t quite seem to fit together as well as the other movies.

Given the recent killing of Cecil, the opening scene was a bit disturbing. (Granted, this movie was made years before Cecil was illegally killed.) The movie opens with a scene that explains where Alex came from. As a young cub, he was lured off of the reserve by hunters while his dad was preoccupied. Yes, you read that right: lured off of the reserved by hunters.

His father managed to thwart the successful capture of Alex but Alex was gone, floating across the ocean to New York in a crate.

The movie then cuts to where we last saw our heroes—in Madagascar. They are leaving Madagascar in an attempt to get back home to the Central Park Zoo. Unfortunately, their plane goes down in Africa—the site of their latest adventures.

In Africa, Alex is reunited with his parents, disappoints his dad by not being able to fight like lions should, succeeds in getting himself and his parents banished from the tribe, and then later restores both his father’s pride in himself and his father’s place as head of the tribe.

Meanwhile, Marty has found his people and is happily running with the herd of zebras. After spending his life thinking he is special, he realizes that he looks, talks, and has similar talents to all other zebras. Even Alex, his best friend, can’t tell him apart from the other zebras.

Gloria, ready for a man in her life, falls for another hippo…the animal equivalent of the jock who thinks he is a ladies man. Melvin, after some advice from King Julian, seeks out Gloria to confess his undying love for her. In the end, the two exchange googly eyes with each another.

King Julian, other than giving Melvin dating advice, attempts to persuade the animals to follow his advice: an animal sacrifice into the volcano would appease the gods and cause the dry watering hole to fill with water.

The penguins commandeered the plane that brought the group from Madagascar to Africa, then steal some jeeps from safaris and fight the trade union that the chimpanzees are trying to form.

In the end, the group is still stuck in Africa. Something tells me that they will not be satisfied to stay there.

Hopefully, the third movie is better than the second.

Movie review: Penguins of Madagascar (2014)

Penguins. Need I say more?

Originally I was going to see the Madagascar films and then the penguin spinoffs in order. But Netflix is now streaming Penguins of Madagascar, so I jumped forward from the first Madagascar film to the ones devoted to the penguin troupe: Skipper, Rico, Kowalski, and Private.

For those not in the know, the penguins are routinely involved in rescue operations. Skipper leads the bunch, Rico eats everything around (including an attempt to eat Kowalski), Kowalski cites the odds of success for anything they do, and Private wants to participate but plays the role of cute penguin.

Penguins of Madagascar starts with our fearless penguins on a mission: breaking into Fort Knox—only it’s not what you think. They aren’t there to save the gold from a thief or protect the area. They break into Fort Knox to gain access to the vending machine that contains Cheesy Dibbles.

But the evil octopus Dave awaits them. Dave (voiced by John Malkovich) is quite miffed about their penguin cuteness, actually about all penguin cuteness. He found himself pushed aside in zoo after zoo. People wanted to see the penguins, not an ugly octopus. Now Dave is out for his revenge. He is gathering up all the penguins throughout the world and he is going to zap them with a green goo that will make all the penguins ugly monsters.

Our penguin heroes find themselves teaming up with the North Wind, an elite rescue group that saves animals. North Wind consists of the leader—a gray wolf voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch—a polar bear, a seal, and a snowy owl.

Private, who we sadly see wanting to play a more active role in the rescue missions the penguins are on, actually takes center stage in saving his friends, North Wind, and all of penguin-kind. In the end, he sacrifices his cuteness to save the cuteness of all penguins in the world. At the end of the movie, he is left with moose antlers and a purple spottedness—not the normal cuteness associated with penguins.

The penguins do lots of silly and cute things throughout the movie. They try to move undetected by rolling through a crossway with painted white stripes; as they roll, their white bellies are up blended with the white stripes and their black backs are up blended with the black between the white stripes.

In another scene, they blend into a crowd of people by acting as penguin backpacks on the backs of children. One person even opens one of them (Rico) in a search for an item. (Remember, Rico eats everything so there are lots of things to rummage through when the person opens up the backpack, aka Rico’s mouth.)

Kowalski, sort of the brains of the outfit, if one could call him that, finds himself attracted to the intelligent and beautiful Eva, the snowy owl in North Wind. He tries in vain to gain her attention. Finally, at one point Eva does grab him and lift up her wing to shelter from prying eyes kisses she gives him.

Penguins of Madagascar is an entertaining movie. As with Madagascar, I am left with a question about one of the characters. In Madagascar, the question was: how did King Julian become a fixture in the Central Park Zoo? In Penguins of Madagascar, the question is: does Private ever revert back to his normal cuteness or does he live out the rest of his life with moose antlers and a spotted purpleness?

Movie review: Madagascar (2005)

I’ll be honest. I saw it for the penguins.

I saw snippets of the animals at the Central Park Zoo on TV a few years back. I remembered the penguins…and the King of the Lemurs. (Who can forget the King of the Lemurs and his neurotic need to be the center of attention?)

I wanted to see the Penguins of Madagascar but thought, no, no, I’ll start with the beginning—the first Madagascar movie—and work my way forward. (The penguins had their own break out movie spin-off after the third Madagascar movie.)

Madagascar was entertaining enough. I liked Chris Rock’s personality in the zebra. I enjoyed the King of the Lemur with his catchy song and dance. I looked forward to the penguins gracing the screen. (If you are a regular reader of my blog, you are aware of my predilection for penguins over the last year and a half.)

I wanted more unexpected subtle moments, like when one of the penguins was nonchalantly holding a tube of 50 SPF sunscreen under his arm and sporadically rubbing his belly with sunscreen. Or when the penguins broke into the control room of the cargo ship, sliding on their bellies up to the sole person there.

In the end, I realized that I have to watch the next film in the series, if only to see the penguins again and answer the burning question that I was left with: How did the King of the Lemurs end up at the Central Park Zoo?