When it comes to fun and enjoyable animated franchises, I think the "Madagascar" franchise from DreamWorks Animation is a perfect example of one. It's definitely not a perfect series and it's far from one of the best-animated series ever made especially from DreamWorks, but I've always found some enjoyment in it. Not including the spinoff "Penguins of Madagascar" which I only found decent, I've liked every entry in the franchise and having rewatched the second film in the series "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa", I think it still stands. While the sequel isn't perfect and has a few flaws, I still found it very fun to watch and a worthy follow up to the first film. It was a fun film to watch.
When we last left our heroes, Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer), and Gloria (Jada Pickett Smith) were stuck on the island of Madagascar after they were supposed to be relocated from their home in the Central Park Zoo in New York to a wildlife preserve in Africa. With the boat they came in out of gas, their next best option is to take a battered plane that had crashed in a tree on the island and slingshot it forward towards New York. Along with the penguins (Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, and John DiMaggio respectively) King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen), and his assistant Maurice (Cedric the Entertainment) the group sit back on their flight back only for it to be cut short when the plane runs out of fuel crash lands in Africa. Yet things seem to be looking up in their favor as Alex reunites with his parents, Zuba and Florrie (Bernie Mac and Sherri Shepherd), Marty finds a herd zebras just like him, Melman becomes the new witch doctor of the giraffes, and Gloria gets the attention of a male hippo named Moto Moto (will.i.am). However, troubles seem to follow them all soon enough including conflict from Zuba's brother Makunga (Alec Baldwin) as well as the penguins figuring out how to get the plane back in the air so they can get home to New York.
When it comes to this franchise, the story isn't usually the driving force of what makes this series enjoyable for me, but I found it pretty alright. It does tend to go back and forth quite a bit between all four characters which raises a bit of a problem as the first film was able to keep them all together which made it easier for us to identify to them. Splitting them apart does make it a little complicated to follow all four of the main characters throughout the majority of the film, but fortunately, I was able to mostly overlook that because the comedy in the film was just as funny as the first film. There were a lot of hilarious moments in this film which helped give it some identity while also bringing back gags that were easily highlights of the first film. I think bringing back Nana and making her a minor antagonist in this film was brilliant. In the first film, she had a brief moment but hilarious moment where she was able to beat up Alex in Grand Central Station despite being an old woman. In this film, they bring her back and show that she is a force to be reckoned with and it's simply hilarious to watch. As far as the animation in this film goes, it has aged very well. While it's certainly not as stunning as the other DreamWorks film from that year "Kung Fu Panda", it does step up the animation from the first film by enhancing a lot of the locations and improving a lot of the effects animation like the water. I also really enjoyed seeing more of Craig Kellman's designs for this film. I like his unique take on the animals and humans in this film as they feel straight out of a traditional cartoon. He really can design great computer-animated characters that still feel almost traditionally animated in a sense. Speaking on the characters, they're easily the highlight of this film and are the big reason why I always like coming back to the franchise. This film, in particular, does grow the characters and helps carve out some unique identities into them. We get to see how Alex and Marty's friendship grows and them coming to terms about what makes them unique as well as seeing Melman struggle to show his true feelings to Gloria whom he secretly loves. These are fun characters to watch and I liked seeing them grow. Even King Julien, the penguins, and Mort (Andy Richter) have some great laughs in the film and it was fun seeing them back again. I also did enjoy Alex's parents and Sherri Shepherd and Bernie Mac did portray them very well. I also fought Alec Baldwin fit in well as the villain Makunga. Unlike his future DreamWorks role in "The Boss Baby", Baldwin's voice fits perfectly for him since the characters is intentionally pretty obnoxious and Baldwin's voice worked for that caliber. I did have a lot of fun with this film though if I did have complaints with it, I'd say apart from the story being slightly unbalanced, it can be a bit slow. The first act after they get to Africa, in particular, does move a little slower and it does feel like a while before it picks up pace again. I also am not a fan of the title. They should've simply called this film "Madagascar 2" or if they wanted the subtitle "Madagascar 2: Escape To Africa". I think it's a little lame putting in numbers in place of words in titles, but that's a nitpick.
In short, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" is still a fun sequel with a story that's enjoyable though a little unbalanced, animation that is improved from the original and still holds up and very fun characters to watch. This is still a fun franchise I like to revisit every once in a while and I'm glad the second film in the trilogy still holds up. While it may not be my favorite one of the franchise, it still makes me smile every time. This film still likes to make me move it, move it.