"I make more money doing animation than doing live action ... each year I do one DreamWorks project, and then I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar."
That was Kung Fu Panda star Jack Black's quip at the Oscars Sunday night, referring to the fact that Pixar's animated flicks tend to get all the critical and awards-season acclaim. There's no arguing that Pixar flicks have heart - who can resist the charms of WALL-E or Rex the toy tyrannosaurus or blue, furry Sully?
But as Black's Kung Fu Panda proved, DreamWorks Animation has produced several endearing 'toon tales of its own, which made me pull the new Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa DVD off the shelf for a viewing.
The 2008 sequel, a follow up to 2005's Madagascar, is a good way to shake off the recent glut of super-serious Oscar movie coverage, with a story that turns out to be even more fun than the original. The movie starts out with a clever bit of backstory on Ben Stiller's Alex the lion, and then turns into an adventure in which Alex and pals - Chris Rock's Marty the zebra, David Schwimmer's Melman the giraffe, Jada Pinkett Smith's Gloria the hippo and, of course, the penguins - try to make it back to the Central Park Zoo, only to find themselves meeting up with their more un-urban counterparts in the wilds of Africa, and, for Alex, a reunion with his parents.
Sweet, funny and full of music and pop culture references, the movie also featured a slew of new voice talent that makes it even more appealing for adult viewers - Alec Baldwin, Sherri Shepherd, will.i.am and, in one of his last two movies, the late, beloved Bernie Mac.
And PS - DreamWorks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg has confirmed a Madagascar 3 is on the way for 2012.