Mark Reviews Movies

Happy Feet Two


2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: George Miller

Cast: The voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Ava Acres, Hank Azaria, Alecia Moore (P!nk), Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Benjamin "Lil P-Nut" Flores Jr., Meibh Campbell, Richard Carter, Sofia Vergara, Common, Magda Szubanksi, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia

MPAA Rating: PG (for some rude humor and mild peril)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 11/18/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | November 17, 2011

The original Happy Feet got by on the knowledge that the presence of adorable animals greatly helps a call for environmentalism, a bouncy collection of remixed popular music, and, primarily, the correct notion that a tap-dancing penguin chick would fall on the right side of the "unbearable cuteness" quotient. Happy Feet Two is more of the same and also less. An environmental issue causes the inciting incident, though not a single mention of how or why a massive glacier would shift is made. The music is not as prevalent, and save for a few numbers, when it does appear, it's less organic to the story. The penguins are still appealing (Once the initial feeling that their movements—especially those of their mouths—appear unnaturally stilted subsides), but the characterizations of the returning characters depend entirely on what's been established by the previous movie.

It's perhaps entirely appropriate then that the story revolves around characters literally being stuck in place throughout most of the movie. While they are trapped physically, the screenplay by director George Miller, Warren Coleman, Gary Eck, and Paul Livingston also keeps the characters confined to a series of trials that are entirely about the situation at hand. If not for a few, new additions to the cast and an oddly effective, overarching theme of existentialism, Happy Feet Two would be a wholly dismissible sequel.

Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) and Gloria (voice of Alecia Moore (P!nk), taking the place of the late Brittany Murphy) are now mates and have a son named Erik (voice of Ava Acres), who has not inherited his father's soft-shoe abilities. The young chick feels out of place whenever the Emperor Penguins in Emperor Land break into song and dance; the closest Erik comes to succeeding results with his head in ice and spontaneously urinating (This and one other joke involving droppings are, thankfully, the only toilet humor here) as the rest of the waddle laughs at his failure.

Still adapting to fatherhood, Mumble is ineffective at helping his son to learn the same lesson he once did: that being different isn't necessarily a bad thing. Instead, Erik and his friends Atticus (voice of Benjamin "Lil P-Nut" Flores Jr.) and Boadicia (voice of Meibh Campbell) run off with Mumble's old friend Ramon (voice of Robin Williams), an Adélie Penguin with delusions of grandeur. Ramon's self-worth is mildly cracked and Erik's self-esteem raises much higher when they meet Sven (voice of Hank Azaria), an unknown species of "penguin" with a Scandinavian accent, a large beak (with staples from which an occasional bubble emerges), and, most curious of all, the ability to fly.

The real plot begins when a giant iceberg encloses Emperor Land on all sides, walling off the penguins within from their fishing waters. Mumble and the chicks must use their collected talents (Boadicia specializes in free-running, which is amusing since there are no obstacles in the barren land of ice) and the help of their Adélie friends, who are experts at fishing, to ensure the survival of the shut-in waddle.

The whole of the movie points to the interconnectedness of the whole shebang, like how Mumble's chance encounter with and rescue of an elephant seal (voice of Richard Carter) leads to a promise of aid whenever it might be needed or how the Adélie's leader/guru Lovelace (also the voice of Williams) was once part of a human expedition (where he met Sven) that happens to pass by when things seem grim. Lovelace and Sven sing of their adventures together on that ship, hinting at environmental damage (Lovelace is pulled out of an oil spill) and the possible threat of humanity to their very existence (Sven is horrified when he peers through a porthole into the galley and sees a rotisserie full of cooking chickens), though the humans here (Unlike the rest of the movie, they are not computer generated) are eager helpers in the penguins' plight.

Sven is an amusing-enough new cast member, but the movie really finds success in the introduction of a pair of krill named Will (voice of Brad Pitt) and Bill (voice of Matt Damon), who leave their swarm to find a new way of living. Will is convinced he can make his way up the food chain (Biting a lion seal winds up serving Mumble's plan to help the elephant seal) and, ultimately, adapt into something greater than food for the bigger fish of the ocean. Will's delusional dialogue (His revelation about dancing, "Perhaps it's a momentary relief from the existential terror of existence," is priceless) and Miller's play with scale as the camera zooms out from the krill's perceived grand adventure to the miniscule effect they have in reality are sources of genuine laughs.

The story itself, though, is just as slight as the krill and their actions actually are. Happy Feet Two is cute, yes, and surprisingly layered, but it's still merely a shadow of its predecessor.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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