After a brief flashback prologue where we see how the young lion Alex (Ben Stiller) is separated from his father Zuba (Bernie Mac) inadvertently ending up in the Big Apple the story returns to present day as our favorite New York zoo denizens prepare to take off from Madagascar in a crudely constructed airplane piloted by the penguins and propelled by slingshot. Unfortunately for Alex lovelorn giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) fast talking zebra Marty (Chris Rock) and svelte hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett-Smith) instead of landing in NYC the aircraft sputters and crash lands right in the middle of Africa where they run into a world of exotic creatures. This also includes Alex’s long lost dad and mom. Happy reunion? Not quite. Zuba’s nemesis Mukunga (Alec Baldwin) insists they follow lion pride lore which means Alex must go through a rite of passage -- one he is sure to fail if Mukunga has his way. Meanwhile Marty tries to integrate into a pack of zebras; Gloria gets hooked up with a soulful hippo (will.i.am); and Melman is up to his neck looking for love. Oh and they also all have to save the Kenya preserve from a life-threatening water shortage. No biggie! Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa’s witty and hip dialogue provides rich voice over opportunities for a talented crew of actors. Stiller continues to be a riot as the showbiz loving Zooperstar Alex especially in his attempts to earn the pride’s respect. Chris Rock earns his stripes as he tries to hang with a large group of look-a-like sound-a-like zebras. Schwimmer is winning and hysterical as Melman now considered a witchdoctor by his fellow giraffe-ians while Pinkett-Smith continues to shine as hippo Gloria looking for a little action. Among the new voices rapper will.i.am as Moto Moto the last of the red-hot hippos will have you wanting More More while Alec Baldwin gets to play the heavy with Lion King style. The late Bernie Mac playing it relatively straight as Alex’s father proves (as he does in his other new release this week Soul Men) shows us just how much his unique brand of humor will be sorely missed. Stealing the show however and getting king-sized laughs in an expanded role is Sacha Baron Cohen back as King Julien the hard-partying head of the lemurs. With a vast improvement in Madagascar’s state-of-the-art computer graphic work directors Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath take this sequel several notches up in terms of technical savvy including the exciting opening sequence as well as the plane crash. But they really score with the script with new co-writer Etan Cohen adding some crisp comedy. What was mostly just a serviceable script the first time around has gotten a lot more sophisticated and clever a development parents being dragged by their kids will be keenly grateful for. This is the rare animated sequel that actually has a reason for existence other than minting money. It has more heart drama and laughs than the original Madagascar which despite its flaws still made half a billion dollars worldwide. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa should make even more as it proves to be one of the year’s most entertaining comedy delights.
December 21, 2004 10:19am EST
Wesley Snipes sues New York City
Blade: Trinity star Wesley Snipes is suing New York City over an arrest warrant issued against him in an Indiana paternity case. Reuters reports the Manhattan judge took the action on an interstate paternity petition filed in Indiana by a woman who claims Snipes fathered her 3-year-old son. But the actor says the city had no authority to seek his DNA and his suit, filed yesterday in Manhattan federal court, alleges the woman involved had a history of making wild claims against celebrities, including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Prince. Snipes' suit also charges that the woman is a mentally ill former crack addict who began having delusions about him after watching the movie Blade. Snipes' lawyer Robert Bernhoft said the actor lived in Orlando, Fla., so New York City had no jurisdiction to file the arrest warrant issued by a New York family court judge and is seeking a court ruling to have it invalidated. The suit also names LaPorte County, Indiana, as a defendant. A lawyer for New York, Emily Sweet, said the lawsuit was being evaluated and could not comment further but a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
Rapper charged in Vibe Award stabbing
Rapper Young Buck was charged Monday with stabbing a fellow performer at the Vibe Awards in Santa Monica, Calif., last month. Reuters reports Young Buck, whose real name is David Darnell Brown, attacked rapper Jimmy James Johnson after Johnson, who was refused an autograph by Dr. Dre, punched the rap impresario in the face. The dispute set off a chair-throwing melee that that nonetheless did not stop the ceremony. Johnson was arrested and remains in custody on a suspected parole violation while Brown remains free on $500,000. If convicted, Brown faces up to eight years in prison.
Actor Brolin cited with domestic battery
Actor Josh Brolin was cited for misdemeanor domestic battery Sunday after his wife, actress Diane Lane, called police during an argument at the couple's home, The Associated Press reports. Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney's office, told the AP no charges have been filed. Brolin, the son of actor James Brolin and stepson of Barbra Streisand, was arrested around 3 a.m. Sunday and released on $20,000 bail. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the couple said the incident was a "misunderstanding" and the couple had reconciled. Brolin, 36, and Lane, 39, were married in an August ceremony on Brolin's ranch north of Los Angeles.
Host Probst dates former Survivor
Survivor host Jeff Probst and former Survivor: Vanuatu contestant Julie Berry are now an item, Reuters reports. "Nobody is more surprised than me," Probst, 43, was quoted as saying on People magazine's Web site. Probst said he and Berry, a 24-year-old youth mentor, started dating after he e-mailed her to say hello once the show was over. Berry, one of 18 contestants on Vanuatu, was among the five still in the running before she was voted off by her rivals during a show that aired Dec. 9.
Alley hawks Jenny Craig
After being tagged a Fat Actress for a new Showtime series, Kirstie Alley is now getting serious about losing weight. The actress has signed a deal to appear in ads for the Jenny Craig weight-management program, the AP reports. "I had a great time getting fat and now I'm going to have an even greater time losing weight," Alley, 53, said in a statement. "I had four offers from other companies, but I wanted to go with the ... one that I knew would work--and, let's face it, Jenny Craig's food is hands-down the yummiest." The TV commercials will begin airing Jan. 10, the Carlsbad, Calif.-based company announced Monday.
Next Harry Potter installment due in July
J.K. Rowling has finished the sixth book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which is due to be released July 16, Reuters reports. The book picks up the story of Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as his evil foe Lord Voldemort's "power and followers are increasing day by day," Rowling's publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic said. "I know you all expected this to happen on Christmas Day, but I was sure that those of you who celebrate Christmas have better things to do on the day itself than fight your way into my study, whereas those of you who don't celebrate Christmas would definitely prefer not to wait until the 25th," Rowling said in a message on her Web site.