Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was put into production around the time the first film was released, which is important, since it is the first sequel in DreamWorks’ canon that was not a part of the Shrek franchise. This is what DreamWorks has been waiting for since the beginning. They finally had another franchise where they could extend their brand! Some wondered if it would fail, and if Madagascar would be a one-off, but it proved to have actual legs even extending into this sequel.
To start we get a backstory of Alex (whose initial name is Alekay) being trained by his father Zuba (voiced by Bernie Mac, who passed away before this film was released). Unfortunately it is clear that Alekay is not the typical lion. As he is dancing, a poacher kidnaps him, and after a series of events, he becomes what we know as Alex the Lion. In the present day, our favorite quartet (and the other supporting characters from the first film) end up in continental Africa, as their plane crashes, and amazingly enough they reunite with Alex’s family.
Soon after this reunion, (which happens after they see a convenient birthmark that did not exist in the first film), our 4 main characters start to drift their separate ways on their own journeys. Alex has to compete in a right of passage (via a fighting contest) that he misinterprets as a dancing contest. Gloria starts to date the alpha hippo named Moto Moto, since she is reaching a time in her life where she wants to start a family. Unbeknownst to Gloria, Melman has always had a crush on her, but ends up being brought to the other giraffes, who appoint him into being a witch-doctor, who suffers a curse and will die in a few days. Marty has the smallest story-line, as he fits in with the other zebras, but does so a bit too well, which causes him to lose his unique identity.
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa is a lot more action-packed than it’s predecessor, as there is more going on, and has a faster-pace. A part of this has to do with the location, and how the crew are not isolated like they were in the last film. All of the characters get storylines this time, which is nice. In the last film only Marty and Alex had a story, and the other two were literally just there taking up space. The humor is an improvement in this film, though they did inflate the joke with the older woman hitting Alex, to the point where it even became an ongoing plot-line.
Also, the animation is just as fast-paced as the humor and story, which keeps a consistent vibe within the movie. Otherwise, the animation is what you would expect, as it’s still done well with the backgrounds, and character designs.
At the same time, all of them having their own stories comes at a cost in regards to pacing. They move through each story so fast it comes off as very jarring. Some people could claim that the plot is a bit convoluted, and I can easily see that. I also feel like a lot of the newer characters weren’t fleshed out, and offered very little to the film as well (which will only be validated after the third film came out).
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa was released on November 7th, 2008, it made $603.9 million in the box office worldwide; becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of 2008. It was mostly snubbed in the awards, outside of a Broadcast Film’s Choice, and a Nickelodeon’s Kids Choice Award nomination. Critical and audience reaction was mixed-to-positive, which was better than the reception for Madagascar, and a third film was put into production soon after. Overall, the film did a pretty nice job of accomplishing its purpose in DreamWorks’ eyes of creating another successful and well liked franchise outside of Shrek. The sequel, Madagascar: Europe’s Most Wanted, would go on to be the most critically lauded of the franchise.