Blu-Ray Review: ‘Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ Continues DreamWorks Blu-Ray Dominance

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HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The DreamWorks Blu-Ray releases for “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Kung Fu Panda,” and “Transformers” are some of the most technically remarkable titles on the next-gen format and you can now add “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” to the list of Blu-Ray discs that you can use to show off your HD TV and surround sound system. The movie is far from great, but the Blu-Ray is one of the best of the year to date.

The Blu-Ray menu for “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” features King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) singing “Move It, Move It” while the four lead characters spastically dance. If you tap your feet or smile, “Escape 2 Africa” is the movie for you. If the song makes you want to shoot your television, then you’re not ready for this over-the-top, shticky comedy that often feels like a bit “2 much 2 take”.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released by DreamWorks Home Video on February 6th, 2009.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released by DreamWorks Home Video on February 6th, 2009.
Photo credit: DreamWorks

Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andy Richter return in “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” joined by Alec Baldwin, will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, Bernie Mac and Sherri Shepherd.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released by DreamWorks Home Video on February 6th, 2009.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released by DreamWorks Home Video on February 6th, 2009.
Photo credit: DreamWorks

The four characters from the original “Madagascar” - Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo, and Melman the giraffe - are getting ready to return to Manhattan in a rickety plane piloted by the quartet of inventive penguins when they crash land in the African savannah.

The group happens to land in the backyard of Alex’s long lost parents (Bernie Mac and Sherri Shepherd) and is forced to deal with life in the wild. Meanwhile, Marty has an identity crisis when he finds a herd of his wild brethren and Gloria enters into an unusual love triangle with the long-enamored Melman and a new hippo Casanova (will.i,am). Of course, King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and every other character from the first film has a few scenes as well.

Great animated sequels like “Toy Story 2” take themes from the original and make them deeper, exploring the ideas instead of just repeating the same jokes. It feels like the creative impetus behind “Escape 2 Africa” was to take everything that worked from the first film and pound it into your head like a kid with a mallet. Kids will be drawn in by the pretty pictures and the excellent voice work, but parents are likely to think that it’s all 2 much.

Even though “Escape 2 Africa” may be a two-star film, it’s a four-star Blu-Ray. The video transfer is stunning. CGI animated films usually look good in 1080P, but “Madagascar 2” looks even richer than a lot of its peers. The video is flawless and the audio tracks - English 5.1 Dolby True HD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital - are perfectly mixed. The technical presentation is so remarkable that it honestly made me like the film more. That’s an accomplishment.

The special features are just as remarkable with a dense, interesting variety of extras that has something for each member of the family. People interested in the making of “Escape 2 Africa” will love the “Animator’s Corner,” which allows viewers to watch the filmmakers’ commentary and see early animatics, actors recording their voice work, and more behind-the-scenes material as the movie plays.

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released by DreamWorks Home Video on February 6th, 2009.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released by DreamWorks Home Video on February 6th, 2009.
Photo credit: DreamWorks

Parents and adult fans will burn through the behind-the-scenes featurettes, all presented in HD, including “It’s a Family Affair: The Cast of Escape 2 Africa,” “The Making of Escape 2 Africa,” “Crash Landing,” and “African Adventure”.

“Jambo Jambo: Swahili Speak” is a brief lesson about the language of Swahili. Ninakupenda means “I Love You”. Never say we didn’t try to teach you anything in our Blu-Ray reviews. “The Bronx Zoo: Madagascar” looks at an actual exhibit at the New York zoo.

The real draw, especially for the kids, will be the two new penguin short films - “Popcorn Panic” and “Gone in a Flash”. The first is a 12-minute comedy in which the penguins try to stop a zookeeper from snapping down on zoo patrons feeding the animals. They like their popcorn. This silly little short is for the kids only. “Gone in a Flash” runs the same time and features another adventures with the penguins and King Julien. Once again, little ones will smile, adults will probably be bored.

The rest of the bonus features for “Madagascar 2,” excluding the easter eggs, are of the musical variety. Kids can bounce to short videos for each of the songs from the movie and then enter the DreamWorks Animation jukebox and watch fifteen minutes of musical clips from several of the studio’s films.

“Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” is another case of a better Blu-Ray release than the movie itself. DreamWorks has done everything they to do with this title including a perfect video/audio transfer and features for both kids and adults.

‘Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’ is released by DreamWorks Home Video and stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Bernie Mac, Alec Baldwin, will.i.am, Sacha Baron Cohen, Andy Richter, and Sherri Shepherd. It was written by Etan Cohen and directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath. It was released on February 6th, 2009.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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