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MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 8, 2009 by  



“Hilarious and extremely entertaining!  If you enjoyed “MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA” in the theater, you’re going to enjoy the picture and audio quality on Blu-ray! Overall, this is a great example of a perfect Blu-ray release.  Perfect in all categories and a release worth owning!”

Images courtesy of © Paramount/DreamWorks Home Entertainment

TITLE: MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA

DURATION: 89 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 5.0 Dolby TrueHD, 5.1 Dolby Digital, Stereo, Subtitles: English, English Subtitled, French Dubbed & Subtitled, Spanish Dubbed & Subtitled

COMPANY: DreamWorks Home Entertainment

RATED: PG

Release Date: February 6, 2009

Directed by Eric Darnell and Tim McGrath

Produced by Mireile Soria and Mark Swift

Written by Eric Cohen, Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath

Music and Sound by Hans Zimmer and will.i.am

Cast:

Ben Stiller as Alex

Chris Rock as Marty

David Schwimmer as Melman

Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria

Sacha Baron Cohen as Julien

Cedric the Entertainer as Maurice

Andy Richter as Mort

Bernie Mac as Zuba

Alec Baldwin as Makunga

Sherri Shepherd as Mom

will.i.am as Moto Moto

Tom McGrath as Skipper

Chris Miller as Kowalski

Christopher Knights as Private

Your favorite castaways are back – still together and still lost! One of the top movies of the year, DreamWorks Animation’s MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA is “even better than the first!” (Mark Hyman, FOX-TV). You’ll laugh out loud as this outrageous comedy takes you on an African adventure like no other.

Hilarious and extremely entertaining!  If you enjoyed “MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA” in the theater, you’re going to enjoy the picture and audio quality on Blu-ray!  Fantastic!

The popular castaways of “MADAGASCAR” are back!  In the first film, we learned about how the popular animals that came from a New York zoo ended up in Madagascar but now, the gang try to return back to New York but things don’t go quite as planned.

The film starts off with a lion (Zuba played by Bernie Mac) and his cub Alex (played by Ben Stiller).  As Zuba is trying to get his son to learn how to fight, his son is more interested in playing with a butterfly.  Both share a similar mark on their paw which Zuba is proud of.

But as Zuba wants to spend more time with his son, his rival Makunga (played by Alec Baldwin) challenges him yet again for alpha dominance among the Pride and while they fight, Alex sees a rope and starts following it.  He is eventually captured by hunters and sold and ends up at the zoo in New York.  Zuba tries to rescue his son to no avail.

Flash forward to the present time as Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, Julien, Maurice, the three penguins Skipper, Kowalski and Private (and two monkeys) are gearing up to go back to New York in a plane which is being propelled by a slingshot.

Unfortunately, Mort has accidentally tampered with the plane and suddenly the plane crashes in Africa.  While the penguins try to find a way to fix the airplane, Alex and friends take a walk around the area and discover many, many animals in the wild that look like them.  Alex feels that the place they are at is quite similar.  The leader of the pride, led by Zuba who represents the animals asks them to leave but his wife takes a look at Alex and looks at his paw.  Both lions realize that Alex is their long lost son who they thought was killed by hunters.

The three celebrate and the others try to get used to hanging out with animals like them.  Meanwhile Zuba’s rival Makunga feels this is his chance to get the leadership position by reminding Zuba that the only way Alex can stay amongst them is to take the Rites of Passage test and Makunga will do what he can to sabotage it by having Alex banished along with his father.

Meanwhile, Marty who thought he was a unique zebra discovers that all the zebra’s can do the things that he does.  Gloria has a crush on a hippo named Moto Moto (played by will.i.am) and Melman who is still in love with Gloria decides to become a doctor in the village.

But things start to go astray with the friends as Alex and Marty’s friendship is tested, especially when Marty can not tell the difference between Marty and the other zebras.  Melman is just jealous of Gloria and Moto Moto and Gloria has no clue that Melman is in love with her.

Things are not going as well as the friends would have thought in their new home.

“MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA” is a very entertaining film and the animation just screams of CG awesomeness that can be seen from the hair on Zuba with the white strands among the darker strands of hair to the water and the physics of water and just the beautiful landscape of how the animators really tried to capture the beauty of Africa from its weeds, the hills, the trees especially the clouds.

Also, what was amazing is the number of talent used in this film and I didn’t know until watching the special features is that “MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA” was the final film which featured popular comedian Bernie Mac before his death and that it was screened for the family and even included a dedication for him in the ending credits.

The voice acting was very well done by each talent and again, I am totally impressed by the storyline and how beautiful the film looked and how great it sounds on Blu-ray.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

The film is featured in 1080p High Definition (AVC-encoded) transfer that is beautiful!  Needless to say, when it comes to picture quality, DreamWorks Entertainment has not let anyone down.    If anything, I think there is a high anticipation that the film look great on Blu-ray and the animators successfully have done so.  Detail on nearly everything from the land, the clouds, solid objects, the water, the ground, the hair on the characters.  You name it, they went all out in making sure the visual experience of watching this film, videophiles will just fall in love for it.  For me, water physics is one of the most difficult things for animators to do.  And to see how far they have gone with making liquid look natural, especially in this film and how it reacts and how great it looks is amazing!    I didn’t notice any artifacting and overall, the picture quality is perfect!

As for the audio, audio is featured in TrueHD5.1. Equally as impressive as the video quality, dialogue is clear, music is alive (especially how it’s used in the rear channels) and a great use of ambient noise.  From the noise of the airplane to several actions sequences especially near the end of the film, really great delivery of audio.  Again, another perfect soundtrack to along with the perfect video quality!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

And DreamWorks didn’t stop with the video and audio quality, they also added plenty of special features to keep “MADAGASCAR” fans busy.  Included in the special features are:

  • Commentary: Filmmakers’ Commentary –  A very good audio commentary from co-directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell with producers Mireille Soria and Mark Swift in regards to animation, working with the talent, working with the design team and this commentary features optional English subtitles.
  • Commentary: The Animators’ Corner – Unlike the commentary above, you can watch the four via picture-in-picture but this time you get certain animated storyboards and much more including brief shots of the talent in the recording studio.
  • Commentary: Trivia Track – The trivia track well thrown in tidbits that you will see via graphic on the bottom of the screen with tidbits from the film.  Such as “animators named the clouds as individual characters when they were working on them” or “creating the movement of the water was one of the difficult challenges for the animators” and many, many more information from the film.
  • Featurette: It’s a Family Affair: The Cast of Escape 2 Africa HD – This featurette was highly entertaining as each talent was interviewed in regards to their role.  And you learn that Ben Stiller had his children involved in recording of the scenes, as did Jada Pinkett Smith had her daughter due the voice of a younger Gloria.  Moto Moto’s sexy voice by will.i.am and much more.  Also, the director and Ben Stiller talking about working with Bernie Mac and so forth.  A very entertaining featurette!
  • Featurette: The Making of Escape 2 Africa HD – An overview on the production of the film.
  • Featurette: Crash Landing HD – A fun featurette in how the crew worked out the storyboard for the crash landing and even coming up with ideas using a couch and how the characters would end up flying around the plane by enacting certain scenes.  Interesting featurette on how that scene came about!
  • Featurette: African Adventure HD – In order to capture the essence of Africa, the director, producers and some staff had to experience it by going there.  Being near wild animals, seeing how they interact, how beautiful the landscape was and trying to capture that in the animation and more.
  • Featurette: Jambo Jambo: Swahili Speak HD – An informative featurette on learning swahili.  There is about 36 minutes of learning various words and phrases in Swahili (especially in how it relates to the film).
  • Featurette: The Bronx Zoo: Madagascar HD – The Bronx Zoo is one of the few zoos to have animals from Madagascar and featuring some of the animals from the exhibit.
  • Featurette: Popcorn Panic (#101) HD – An episode from the upcoming Nickelodeon animated series featuring our favorite Madascar penguins, Julien, Maurice and Mort.  In this case, a no feeding animals popcorn rule has been enforced and the penguins and animals are not too happy about it and try to get their hands on popcorn.
  • Featurette: Gone in a Flash (#103) HD – An episode from the upcoming Nickelodeon animated series featuring our favorite Madagascar penguins and characters such as Julie, Maurice, Mort and other zoo friends.
  • Music Videos: “Move It, Move It” Music Video HD,  “Big and Chunky” Music Video HD, “She Loves Me” Music Video HD
  • Alex’s Dance Off HD – If your kids want to learn the dance moves of Alex, this is the way to go!
  • Music Videos: Sing Along HD – Sing along to the songs sung in the film!
  • Music Videos: DWA Jukebox HD – Featuring a music clip from “MADAGASCAR”, “THE BEE MOVIE”, “SHREK 1 & 2”, “KUNG-FU PANDA, “Over the Hedge” and more.
  • Games: Test Flight of Air Penguin Game – A point and click video game for the family.
  • Easter Eggs: There are six Easter Eggs according to DreamWorks, I have yet to find them!

“MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA” is an entertaining and highly enjoyable film!

If anything, my son has had “Madagascar in the Brain” with his constant singing of will.i.am’s “Move it, Move it” song and for Blu-ray, Paramount has released animated titles that were just solid in picture and audio quality and “MADAGASAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA” does not disappoint in any category.

The storyline was well-written, with so much talent involved, each has done a tremendous job for their characters and you really have to give the crew a standing ovation in accomplishing one of the most awesome animated sequences with the high amount of detail from the characters, outdoors, objects.  You name it, they did a spectacular job in making this film look so beautiful!  And of course, the audio is just as spectacular and the music and audio during the action sequences is just as alive.  To top it off, the Blu-ray is just filled with special features galore!

Overall, this is a great example of a perfect Blu-ray release.  Perfect in all categories and a release worth owning!






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