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Madagascar 2

Paramount Pictures

Review in a Hurry: Ben Stiller and Chris Rock return for another wacky animated romp through the wilderness. Unlike most sequels, Madagascar 2 is actually funnier—and better—than the original.

The Bigger Picture: In the first flick, four animals break out of the zoo and find themselves in the "real world"—the wild. Alex (Stiller) learns a very special lesson about his true carnivorous nature, and how to still be best friends with potential prey Marty the zebra (Rock). But see, lessons are boring, and the movie focused more on broad guffaws and lampoonish animation than true wit.

Madagascar 2 leaves all that behind and brings the jokes fast and furious, with welcome adult sophistication. Finally shipping out of Madagascar on a rickety old plane, the beastly buddies crash-land in a wildlife preserve in Africa. Alex the "King of New York" realizes he's small potatoes in a real lion pride, as he falls smack into the middle of a battle for Alpha Lion. Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) is in hog—or rather, hippopotamus—heaven when she meets charmer Moto Moto (will.i.am), testing the affections of Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer).

These very special lessons, important as they are, take a back seat to a swift and satisfying plot peppered with plenty of zingers. You've got to give credit to an animated film where a lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen's hilarious King Julien) woozily sings "Private Dancer" and a lion references West Side Story in a...dance-off. Rawr!

The 180—a Second Opinion: So can the humans understand what the animals say? Or do they hear growls and roars where we hear words? How is reality reconciled with fantasy? This is something Pixar is so good at; Dreamworks here needs to catch up.