Weekend Edition…

Madagascar 2: Back to Africa (2007 film) after the break…

Madagascar 2 (2007 film)…

I watched this film earlier. I understand that the film is meant for little kids that can’t sit still for more then one minute without asking their (already annoyed) parents “Can we go home now & play?”

If you don’t know the story, the franchise is about a group of New York City zoo animals that are shipped back out into the wild after an incident where some of them roam through New York City. They don’t reach their intended destination, instead winding up in Madagascar where they meet gay lemurs & evil wilderbeasts (the plot of Madagascar 1).

In Madagascar 2, the animals use an impromptu-repaired crashed airplane in an attempt to fly back to New York City. However, the plane’s repairs are faulty (really?) & they crash land in an African wildlife reserve. The lion meets his long-lost parents, the giraffe impresses other giraffes with his medical know-how (the giraffe is a hypochrondriac), the hippo thinks she’s found love amongst her kind & the zebra struggles with his identity once he realizes that all zebras look & act pretty much alike. Against this backdrop is the long-simmering feud between the lion’s Dad & an aging rival who uses the lion in a plot to unseat the lion’s Dad from being the king of the wildlife reserve.

I’ll admit it – I only watched this film because I had a short window of opportunity if I was going to view it at all. The first film was light & fluffy, the kind of thing that rejects from Pixar’s intern program might’ve cooked up while sticking pins in John Lassiter dolls for having kicked them out of Pixar. How would the sequel hold up? Well… Um… So, how’s the weather in your area?

To be fair, there are some nice touches in this film.

The “all zebras are alike” thread was quite nice & mildly innovative. Personally, I think that they could’ve done some really nice things with this sub-plot but they didn’t. For instance, since the first film was all about the lion, why not make the sequel more about the zebra (who got them all in trouble in the first film in the first place)? In my mind, the zebra sub-plot had the most potential for exploration. The fact that what’s on the screen is a hollow shell of what could have been foreshadows how highly I think of the rest of this film.

Another bright spot about the film comes from the penguin/monkey sideplot of rebuilding the mostly-wrecked airplane. Although they’re a cheap laugh, the penguins & monkeys are harmlessly entertaining. Admittedly, some of the humor from this sub-plot might be slightly inappropriate for the most impressionable of children (Are they really going to understand indiscretions between a penguin & a dashboard mannequin? It would’ve been more effective had the mostly-tame pictures not been seen at all).

Unfortunately, beyond these two brighter spots of the film, I really can’t recommend the rest of the film based upon either the plot or the humor. The lion rivalry is a bargain-bin shadow from “The Lion King.” The hippo “love triangle” was so underwhelming that I simply fast-forwarded through it. The giraffe sub-plot of being a witch doctor had nice potential but the filmmakers never utilize it except for cheap laughs & to push the resolution of the “hippo love triangle” sub-plot. Finally, I must be a prude but I find absolutely nothing funny about the overtly gay (or, if you really want to be diplomatic about it, you could just call him ‘eccentric’ although that would be an insult to anyone who has ever been called ‘eccentric’) lemur leader. Like Jar Jar Binks, just a little of the lemur goes an awfully long way & unfortunately, the filmmakers had no reservations of splattering the lemur into as many scenes as they possibly could.

Perhaps my biggest reservation (Ohh! That was intended!) is the entire resolution of the lion rivalry which is, of course, the main plot. Quite frankly, there is no satisfying resolution. The water in the reservation has dried up as the result of a make-shift wooden dam. Had the film been more cunning, this would’ve been an absolutely great setting for a return from the hunters that very briefly make an appearance at the very beginning of the film. The potential for the lion, the lion’s Dad & Dad’s rival to have a climactic conclusion all against the backdrop of some hunters’ trap is heartbreakingly missed. Instead, the setting is just another cheap laugh about some stranded New York residents (a by-product of the penguin / monkey subplot, the less written the better). The rival (and arguably, the main villain) is dispatched in such a trivial manner that it almost defies description. Quite frankly, anyone older then the age of five is going to feel cheated & I may have just insulted five year olds by that claim.

In the end, though, I’m glad that I watched “Madagascar 2”: It makes me appreciate Pixar films all the more.

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