Top grade animation and entertaining voice performances from its star packed cast saves Happy Feet Two from drowning in its bigger is better approach.
The first Happy Feet movie was an Oscar winning blockbuster which spawned an army of little tots tapping away to the irritation of their parents. It was also an overrated movie that has since lost its charm, with its sequel Happy Feet Two unable to piggy back on the success of its predecessor with its North American release considered a critical and box office disappointment, which is a shame since it is actually the better movie.
Happy Feet Two continues the personal journey of Mumble (Elijah Wood) the penguin from the first movie who went against the grain and danced instead of sang. Now married to Gloria (Pink replacing the late Brittany Murphy), Mumble finds himself in a curious situation with his son Erik (Ava Acres) unable to dance. And so the circle of life continues…
Family drama is brushed aside when environmental changes cause a large ice berg to trap the entire Emperor Penguin community behind large walls of ice. Mumble enlists the help of a Swedish Puffin named Sven (Hank Azaria), who poses as a god-like penguin to the ill-informed community.
Much like the first movie there is plenty of singing and dancing to versions of pop rock classics such as Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” and Queen’s “Under Pressure”. Also like the first movie there is a social/political message beneath its animated exterior with global warming/climate change/whatever you want to call it, a big element to its story.
Yet what producer/director George Miller is unable to do is subtlety. This is a big film in theme and scope with more characters, more sub-plots, and deeper subject matter that all becomes just too much for one sitting.
Luckily, there are the voice performances to counter Miller’s over wrought filmmaking. Robin Williams is a hoot in his double duty role of Latino lothario Ramon and preacher penguin Lovelace, Hank Azaria adds his seasoned pipes to the egotistical Swede Puffin Sven, and then there is Brad Pitt and Matt Damon who are downright hilarious as two Krill named Bill and Will who embark on an existential journey. If Miller were smart he would be working on a spin-off movie for these two characters right now.
Made through Australia’s Dr. D Studios, Happy Feet Two has the distinction of being the best animated film of this and several years. The animation design is simply fantastic especially in 3D, which effectively enhances the stellar work put into this film.
There are some action scenes which will scare the crap out of the kiddies, but if families are willing to put up with another round of dancing penguin, tree hugging, larger than life animation, than Happy Feet Two is the film for them.