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“Madagascar 2” lands at Smith Opera House

If only all sequels were this good. In “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” a hugely entertaining, lightning-fast, ceaselessly funny follow-up to the adorable 2005 animated hit, our wisecracking animal gang attempts to fly back to the New York zoo from Madagascar but wind up on the wild African plains. It will be screened at 7 p.m., Jan. 16, 17, 19 and 20, and at 2:00 on Sunday and Monday, Jan. 18 and 19 at the Smith Opera House, 82 Seneca St.After a dizzying crash-landing sequence, which effectively sets the breakneck comic pace for the rest of the film, Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the love-struck giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the sexy hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) share a “Roots” moment. As they look over the savannah they sense that this is their true home.Alex feels the strongest twinge of deja vu and quickly realizes that this is the very spot he was born. Reunited with his alpha-male father Zuba (the late Bernie Mac, to whom the film is dedicated), Alex finds himself embroiled in a battle with oily bad-guy lion Makunga (Alec Baldwin) over whether he should be allowed membership to the pride.Meanwhile, the rest of the gang are off on their own adventures of assimilation. Melman tries teaching his fellow giraffes that medical treatment can prolong their lives; Gloria gets hot and heavy with a smooth Barry White-type love interest (voiced by Will.i.am from the group Black Eyed Peas); Marty hooks up with a herd of identical zebras (all voiced by Rock). This turns out to be the film’s most engaging character journey as Marty discovers that the thrill of being with his own kind is offset by a loss of individuality.Most entertaining of all, though, are the attempts by the renegade penguins to repair their crashed aircraft. In need of engine parts, they proceed to hijack tourist-laden jeeps by faking accidents, emptying the vehicles of passengers, then driving off.As if the film wasn’t busy enough, this then leaves a lost tribe of camera-wielding New Yorkers who survive in the jungle under the leadership of that feisty old Jewish lady who has history with Alex and who turns out to be one of the plot’s linchpins.Tying it all together is a water shortage that leaves the animals so thirsty they consider throwing Melman into the nearest live volcano as a sacrifice to appease the gods. This prompts Alex and Marty to defy the One Big Rule of the plains by going “off reserve” to locate the source of the dried river and restore the flow of water to the plains.Easily one of the best family films of 2008, “Madagascar 2” punches its key themes of friendship, togetherness and family amid a hyperactive swirl of jokes, musical numbers and physical gags. It is rated PG and has a running time of 89 min. All seats are $3. Call 315-781-LIVE (5483) or toll-free 1-866-355-LIVE (5483) for details or to order tickets. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.TheSmith.org.The Smith Opera House is owned and operated by the Finger Lakes Regional Arts Council, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the City of Geneva, the Town of Geneva and by contributions from individual supporters.

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