Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

I figured it would be a good idea to go catch the early showing of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa on Veteran’s Day. It’s a Tuesday…my son and I would certainly have the theater to ourselves. Wrong. The line at the theater was the longest I’ve ever seen it and packed with kids. I guess this wasn’t one of my best ideas. After waiting almost past the start time for our tickets, we managed to slip into the theater while the previews were playing. The theater was packed, but we were still able to find decent seats. People continued trickling in even as the show started. If this visit was any indication, this movie is going to be a blockbuster in terms of box office take.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa starts out in Africa where a young Alex Lion (Ben Stiller) is being shown the ropes by his father Zuba (Bernie Mac). Alex is lured off a wildlife preserve by hunters, ending up in a crate that ends up in a river, ultimately washing up in New York City, where Alex becomes the star of the Central Park Zoo. Not exactly a believable plot line, but it lays the foundation for the rest of the film. After providing us the details of Alex childhood in Africa, there is a quick recap of the escape from the first film of Alex, Marty Zebra (Chris Rock), Melman Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). We catch up with the four in Madagascar, where they are preparing to fly back to New York in a plane piloted by the Penguins. Things don’t go quite as planned, and our band of misfit zoo animals end up back on the very wildlife preserve where Alex grew up. The film explores the relationships of our main characters and others like them in the preserve, drawing the group back together by the end of the film, where they launch a joint effort to help their community.

The plot in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is very simple. There a minor sub-plots involving the relationships between the characters and other animals of their own kind, which adds a bit of interesting diversion from the very simplistic overall plot. This film targets a pre-teen audience, which makes the plot lines more than adequate. The dialogue is witty and interesting, with every opportunity to turn a pun exploited. And I mean that in a good way. There was even a bit of adult humor thrown in for the guardians that were at this showing in abundance. Little gems like “bring me my nuts on a silver platter” were sprinkled throughout the script. Although the plot is predictable, the characters are interesting and the dialogue flows smoothly. Considering the genre, the plot was well thought out. However, I did not think it was quite as good as the original…most likely because the idea was fresher the first time around.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa had interesting animation. I know that we have come to a point in CGI where it is often difficult to distinguish between reality and graphic enhancements. However, I am still amazed that a computer can generate water washing up on a beach or flowing in a river and create the reflections and ripples in a convincing manner. The level of detail in the animation of this film is outstanding. When you are creating background detail out of nothing, it becomes a true art form. Many of the scenes contain background detail that easily gets lost in the clutter of animation. It is the background that sells the believability of the animation. I was impressed with that aspect of the film. I am also always amused at the similarity I find between animated characters and their voice-over counterparts. When you get those idiosyncrasies down, you create an interesting illusion. There were some gestures that Alex made that definitely made me feel like I was watching Ben Stiller perform. Details like that really make the animation special. From my untrained eye, the animation was perfect.

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