At the Movies

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"Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa"

The pampered zoo animals of the 2005 animated hit this time are dropped off on the African mainland for what amounts to more of the same in this shrill, unamusing sequel. Key voice stars Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith return, along with Sacha Baron Cohen and Cedric the Entertainer. Operating on the principle that the bigger the menagerie, the merrier the movie, the filmmakers tack on fresh characters to the point of distraction, including the late Bernie Mac, Alec Baldwin and singer will.i.am. With so many characters to cram in and not much for many of them to do, the sequel ends up a choppy, episodic affair. Whether or not they've seen or remember the original flick, young kids will eat up this manic mess, a nonstop rush of slapstick and jabbering dialogue. The noise and mayhem will annoy, or at least bore, most parents, who can take some solace in the movie's brisk running time. PG for some mild crude humor. 89 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

"Role Models"

The premise is completely formulaic and potentially cheesy: A couple of buddies get arrested and, for their community service assignment, must serve as big brothers to a pair of misfit kids. You know from the beginning that many necessary life lessons will be learned and that all parties ultimately will be better off for the unlikely friendships they've formed. But it's the wildly, hilariously crude way that director David Wain and Co. approach this concept that makes "Role Models" so disarming. The rampant wrongness would have been amusing enough on the page, but the delivery from co-stars Seann William Scott, Paul Rudd and the supporting cast of both comedy veterans and up-and-comers makes the material consistently laugh-out-loud funny. Wheeler (Scott) and Danny (Rudd) spend their days giving just-say-no talks at Los Angeles schools and peddling the energy drink Minotaur, a job that requires Wheeler to dress up in a furry costume and guzzle gallons of green gunk. Danny, fed up with his life and frustrated that his longtime girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks) has just rejected his marriage proposal, snaps one day and gets himself and Wheeler in trouble with the law. Rather than going to jail, the two end up working with the Sturdy Wings mentoring group, led by the damaged but overly earnest Gayle (Jane Lynch, stealing every scene she's in, as usual). While Wheeler gets paired up with the freakishly foul-mouthed Ronnie (Bobb'e J. Thompson, radiating a scary amount of confidence for a 12-year-old), Danny gets dweeby teen Augie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of "Superbad"), who's obsessed with his live-action fantasy role-playing game. R for crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity. 99 min. Three stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Soul Men"

This stale buddy road-trip movie will be remembered mainly as the untimely swan song of Bernie Mac, the comic great who died in August at just 50. When it's about Mac and Samuel L. Jackson, co-starring as former bandmates bickering over decades of pent-up resentments, "Soul Men" has a fiercely raunchy, buoyant energy about it. Trouble is, the movie from director Malcolm Lee ("Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins") and screenwriters Robert Ramsey and Matthew Stone crams in myriad needless subplots - ostensibly to provide padding, which only draws attention to how thin the original story really is. Mac and Jackson, who were longtime friends off-screen, bounce off each other with expert timing and equally matched, wild-eyed volatility, and when they're on, the movie is on. Mac's Floyd Henderson and Jackson's Louis Hinds were one-time backup singers to Marcus Hooks (John Legend in a cameo) and the three were a popular Motown-style group until Marcus took off on his own for solo stardom. Louis and Floyd stuck it out as a duo through the '70s until they fell in love with the same woman, which tore them apart. Now, with the announcement of Marcus' death, the two must reunite for a tribute concert at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Naturally, this requires them to travel across the country in a bright green, 1971 Cadillac El Dorado - the same kind of car that belonged to Isaac Hayes, who also has a cameo as himself and who died the day after Mac - because flying wouldn't eat up enough time. The road trip also allows them to dust off their act (and their wardrobes) at various gigs across the country, and spar some more. Sharon Leal from "Dreamgirls" co-stars as the grown-up daughter of the woman they both loved, and Jennifer Coolidge shows up for one uncomfortably unfunny sex scene. R for pervasive language, and sexual content including nudity. 103 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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