There’s something inherently pleasurable about watching furry little creatures sing and dance, especially when they’re waddling little penguins with plenty of ‘tude. Happy Feet Two is a sequel that will bring a smile to your face, and if thousands of penguins breaking out in synchronized singing and dancing isn’t enough to please, then Will the Krill with the existential crisis might.
This is a family-friendly animated pic that doesn’t fall into the normal sequel pitfalls. Some might even feel it is an improvement on the original, as it showcases the same toe-tapping song and dance numbers, touching sentimentality, and quick wit, while not jamming a heavy-handed environmental message down our throats.
The original Happy Feet caught some flack for its strange bait and switch routine. One minute it was a cute family pic about a little penguin that didn’t belong, and the next second it was an environmentalist propaganda infomercial.
The elements that worked in the first film are back in Happy Feet Two, along with the exquisite CGI, and the environmental message is worked into the storyline much more effectively. Some might still find it a little aggressive, but compared to the first film, this sequel’s Green shtick is practically muted.
The story is simple enough; Mumble is back all grown up, and his little son Erik suffers from the same issues as his daddy. He can’t seem to find his place in the world of the Emperor Penguins. He is clumsy, and he can sing a little but doesn’t see the point in doing either.
Little Erik decides to run away to find himself, following the adventurous Latin penguin lover Ramon’s example. When Erik meets a charismatic new “penguin” just come to town, hailed as a Messiah of sorts with an extraordinary tale of escape and survival, he finds his new role model. The Mighty Sven is a penguin who can fly, and the other penguins embrace him as an inspirational guru of sorts. Only Mumble seems to suspect The Might Sven can’t be as perfect as he seems.
Because of global warming (we assume), there is some major shifting going on with the ice shelves. When a huge wall of ice collides with the Emperor Penguin’s home, they are suddenly trapped in a giant ice bowl, unable to reach the water to get food.
Mumble, his Latin penguin posse, and his son Erik and his two friends, are all conveniently away when their peeps are trapped. Mumble takes the lead, trying to save the Emperor Penguins by uniting all the penguin nations and bringing them together. Along the way he wins his son’s respect, and little Erik learns that he can do anything he puts his mind to.
There are some great side stories going on while all the penguin trouble is brewing. One of the best is the tale of Bill and Will, the krill. Will the Krill dares to question the purpose of his existence, and decides to leave the swarm and become a carnivore. His best bud Bill the Krill follows him, trying to talk him out of his insane quest to move up the food chain.
Bill and Will both go through harrowing adventures, and after getting separated and then re-untied, they have an intriguing part in saving the penguins. It’s one of those “even the tiniest thing can make a difference” stories, and the krill are not only hilariously witty, but voiced by acting heavy-weights Brad Pitt and Matt Damon.
Pitt and Damon do a great job on their voice parts, and their interchange and dynamic is both fun to listen to and hits the right dead pan notes. The story in Happy Feet Two isn’t as cohesive as the original, but the krill characters and side stories make it just as fun, if a little chaotic.
If anything, Happy Feet Two can boast of a stellar voice cast that includes great voice actors as well as iconic street actors. Damon and Pitt are only two smaller characters in a cast that includes Elijah Wood as Mumble, Robin Williams as Lovelace/Ramon, Sofia Vergara as Carmen, Pink as Gloria, Hugo Weaving as Noah, Anthony LaPaglia as the Alpha Skua, and Hank Azaria as The Mighty Sven.
The voice acting is above par in this film, except for Azaria’s Sven. Azaria is such a talented voice actor, but now he’s done so many animated characters that his voice alone is uber recognizable. This, added with the fact that I’ve heard him use the same accent for Sven as he’s used to voice other characters (it was identical to the voice he used as the bat in Anastasia), that I found it uninspiring and a little tired.
The CGI is an aspect of Happy Feet Two that filmmakers can be proud of. It’s some of the best I’ve seen, and the crisp clarity and realism is amazing. The ice and water effects are incredible. Even the humans are convincing, and are so close to being absolutely lifelike that audiences will do a double take to make sure they aren’t human actors.
I personally don’t love the aesthetics of the penguins and other animals. The artwork in Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two is very realistic, and so some of the adorable round-eyed animation art is absent, in favor of a more natural look. The baby penguins are cute enough, but the adult penguins and the other animals are too realistically drawn for my taste. The krill were well designed, though, and in a more fantastical way than the other characters so I found them the most appealing as far as animation art.
The soundtrack is compelling and fun. It’s a mix of R & B, pop rock, some classic rock, and in this movie even some classic opera. The cute re-mixing of popular songs is a hold-over from the original Happy Feet, and it works just as well in this sequel.
George Miller directed both Happy Feet and this sequel, and he also is credited as a co-writer. I give him props for his style of animation, and the slightly new way he’s approached the CG animated family movie. There is an innovative style to the Happy Feet franchise that hasn’t really been seen before, from the naturalistic artwork to the use of animated human characters. His environmental agenda aside, he’s done some great cinematic work here.
Besides the stark graphics and concept art, I couldn’t help thoroughly enjoying Happy Feet Two. Synchronized singing and dancing might get old eventually, but the themes of belonging and believing in yourself are universal. Happy Feet Two is a fun uplifting family flick that might even help you deal with the unbearable horror of existence (as Will the Krill would say).