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Did you know that in the magical land of Hollywood that the word success is actually spelled S-E-Q-U-E-L? And while second helpings usually fail to tickle the pallet, I have to admit that Dreamworks’ CGI animated MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA ($40) definitely tickled my funny bone on a fail consistent basis. MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA follows the continuing adventure of Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (voiced by Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer), our animal refugees from New York’s Central Park zoo, as the hope to make their way back from Madagascar to the concrete jungle. With their "can do" WWII movie attitude, those crazy penguins, who got everyone stuck in Madagascar to begin with, do their best FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX reassembly job on an downed aircraft, and set a heading for New York City. Unfortunately, the plane only remains airborne only long enough to get its penguin crew and New York bound passenger onto the African continent.

Once in Africa, the film heads into territory covered in THE LION KING, when Alex’s back-story comes to light. It seems Alex is the son of the Alpha Lion Zuba (voiced by Bernie Mac), whose authority is constantly being challenged by another lion named Makunga (voiced by Alec Baldwin). During one of their battles, lion cub Alex was captured by poachers and shipped off to the Central Park Zoo. Seeing Alex reunited with his parents, Makunga makes another power play, one that entails using the zoo raised lion’s lack of jungle skills against his father. While Alex gets reacquainted with his family, Marty’s loses his sense of self amongst a heard nearly identical zebras; Gloria goes looking a little hippo romance and Melman takes up the position of local Witch Doctor. The vocal talent behind MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA also features Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Tom McGrath, John DiMaggio, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Sherri Shepherd, Will i Am, Elisa Gabrielli and Conrad Vernon.

Dreamworks Home Entertainment has made MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is highly impressive, taking the cartoony style of the computer animation and ramping it up to a surprising level of clarity and beauty. Even with the style of the animation, the animators have imbued the film with a terrific level of detail and texturing that comes through flawlessly at the high definition level. Colors appear quite rich and deeply saturated, while being rendered with complete stability. Blacks are dead on perfect, while the whites are totally pure. Additionally, the picture delivers the kind of ultra-smooth contrast that can only be generated in a computer. Mastered from directly from the digital source, there is neither grain nor visual imperfections in the image.

MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. No surprise, MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA impresses sonically, as it does visually. The sound design is lively and highly directional for action moments, in addition to playing up the comic elements of the story with exaggerated and humorous sound effects. On top of the humor, the track proves itself quite atmospheric and filled with jungle noises that bring the sonic environments to life. Fidelity is top of the line, producing a rich musical component, in addition to convincing sound effects. The bass channel is weighty when it needs to be and adds necessary rumble key moments. Voices are cleanly and distinctly reproduced, plus the dialogue is easy to understand. French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell, plus producers Mireille Soria and Mark Swift. The Animator’s Corner provides a picture-in-picture Video Commentary that is augmented with additional pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player). In a similar vein is a Trivia Track that provides even more factoids.

HD Featurettes include the following programs: The Making Of Escape 2 Africa (eleven minutes), It’s A Family Affair: The Cast Of Escape 2 Africa (nine minutes), Crash Landing (four minutes), African Adventure (seven minutes), The Heart Of A Lion (twelve minutes) and The Bronx Zoo: Madagascar (eight minutes). More Penguins offers up Popcorn Panic and Gone In A Flash; two shorts featuring the funniest characters in the movie. Next are four Music Videos for songs from the film: Move It Move It, Big And Chunky, She Loves Me, and Traveling Song. Alex's Dance Off shows our favorite dancing lion strutting his stuff. Jambo Jambo offers a bit of Swahili. Test Flight Of Air Penguin is an interactive game for the kids. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the main body of supplements. MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is a fun family film that had me laughing. The excellent Blu-ray presentation demonstrates why CGI animated film and high definition are a perfect match. MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is definitely worth checking out.



Madagascar - Escape 2 Africa [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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