Move it, move it to ‘Madagascar’

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By Stephanie Holland

(Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

By Stephanie Holland

Whoever said “you can’t go home again,” never met the plucky animals of “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa.”

Marty, Alex, Gloria and Melman return on Nov. 7 in this sequel to the animated blockbuster “Madagascar.”

With an all-star voice cast that includes Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Sacha Baron Cohen, “Madagascar 2” picks up where the first film left off.

This time the animals are trying to fly home on a plane repaired by those feisty penguins, which it crashes into the wilds of Africa.

It is during the journey to their homeland that the foursome starts to discover their true selves.

Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) has always considered himself the star of the show, however, in Africa it is his father Zuba, voiced by the late Bernie Mac in one of his final roles, who is king of the pride.

These complex father-son issues make for a difficult and hilarious reunion.

Alex’s mother is played by “The View” co-host Sherri Shepard.

She was cast because the directors wanted a funny and tender mom.

Complicating things further is Makunga (Alec Baldwin) a lion who feels that he should be leading the pride, and sees Alex’s presence as another obstacle in his way.

For this new character, filmmakers wanted someone who could be an over-the-top villain but also bring a lot of comedy to the role, and that was Baldwin.

While Alex’s story may take center stage, that doesn’t mean the other animals don’t have anything to do.

Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) has always been the most outspoken of the group when it comes to discovering their roots.

During his quest Marty finds out that everything that makes him so special and unique in New York, isn’t that special or unique in Africa.

Since the zebras all have the same catchphrases and mannerisms, Rock voiced all the zebras in the movie.

In a conference call with reporters director Tom McGrath discussed what it was like making the film.

“It’s like having the best seat in the house in the recording booth,” said McGrath, who also voices head penguin Skipper, about working with such a talented voice cast.

The lone female of the group is Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett-Smith) who has always carried herself with a confidence and sassiness that doesn’t change one bit when she meets the other hippos at the watering hole.

As a matter of fact she is so cool that she instantly attracts the attention of the hippos’ resident ladies man Moto Moto, voiced by from The Black Eyed Peas.

He is introduced by a smooth musical number that features all the other animals at the watering hole providing percussion for Moto Moto’s pick up rap to Gloria.

He uses a soulful Barry White voice to woo Gloria, much to the chagrin of Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer).

Melman has always had a crush on Gloria and when the plane begins to crash he decides it’s time to confess all.

A “Madagascar” film wouldn’t be the same without the penguins and this time they are the catalyst for the entire story.

It is the penguins who fix the plane so the crew can fly back to New York.

Unfortunately, penguins aren’t known for their mechanical ability and the plane crashes.

McGrath envisioned Skipper as a 50s or 60s tough guy cut from the same cloth as Charlton Heston or Robert Stack.

A fun aspect of the movie is that the audience gets to see the younger version of the animals, and in the case of Alex and Gloria these younger incarnations were voiced by Stiller and Pinkett-Smith’s actual children.

Though “Madagascar” may be an animated movie the characters are very well developed and that character development starts with the script and continues with the actors.

“In a way making these movies is like workshopping a play, you try out scenes and play them and over the years you refine them,” McGrath said.

Animated films are always risky for adult audiences because chances are the film isn’t meant to be entertaining to those over the age of ten.

However, with a talented cast, a fun story and beautiful animation “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” looks to entertain movie fans of all ages.

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