Picks and Pans Review: Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

updated 11/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/17/2008 AT 01:00 AM EST

Voices by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen | PG

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Still stuck in Madagascar, Alex the lion (Stiller), zebra Marty (Rock), hippo Gloria (Pinkett Smith) and giraffe Melman (Schwimmer) are finally preparing to return home to the Central Park Zoo. Reflecting on their journey and the events of the 2005 original film, Alex says, "I think it will seem much more fun the further away we get from it."

The exact opposite is true in this uneven sequel, which matches the first movie's verve only when resurrecting its best gags (like the mischievous penguins, who once again steal the show). But the new plot—they crash-land in Africa, where Alex reunites with his dad and tangles with a Scar-like challenger (Alec Baldwin)—is Lion King lite. And good luck explaining to your kids why Alex keeps attacking, and almost killing, that feisty old lady from the first film.

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