I didn't think much of Madagascar, which had an unfocused story, no internal logic, and only a few laughs, scattered mostly among the minor characters. It relied too much on pop-culture references, too, a common problem these days in animation. So I'm glad to report that the sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, is an improvement. The story has a clear protagonist (instead of the lion and zebra battling for screen time), it's a bit more straightforward, and the movie references are all but gone. It's still primarily the supporting cast that's funny, not the leads -- but hey, if Dreamworks were capable of doing everything right it would have to change its name to Pixar.

The sequel, again directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, finds our heroes having repaired a dilapidated airplane and now preparing to fly themselves back to New York. But instead, they crash-land not far from the island of Madagascar: on the continent of Africa, in fact, and in the very animal preserve where Alex the lion (voice of Ben Stiller) was born. He is joyfully reunited with his parents (Bernie Mac and Sherri Shepherd), and his friends are thrilled with their ancestral homeland, too. Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) is able to run with a herd for the first time, Melman (David Schwimmer) finds his hypochondria to be a hit with his fellow giraffes, and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) loves that with hippos, fat equals attractive.