“Happy Feet” was a happy surprise hit for Warner Bros. Pictures in 2006 when this sleeper hit came out of nowhere and grossed over $380 million at the box office. Its flawless mixing of gorgeous computer-animated graphics, showcasing the beautiful icy world of the Antarctic, with contemporary songs, dances and an environmental message about overfishing in that region resonated with audiences and critics alike, earning the film Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.
Who better to bring us back to the frozen tundra of the emperor penguins for “Happy Feet Two” than George Miller, the writer and director of “Happy Feet”? With nearly the entire cast from the original returning, plus a flock of new voices heading to the screen, “Happy Feet Two” seems to be well on its way to be a successful sequel.
Once an outcast for his toe-tapping abilities and lack of vocal talent, the now-adult Mumble (Elijah Wood) and his mate Gloria (P!nk, replacing the late Brittany Murphy) are now leaders in the emperor penguin colony. When their son, Eric (Ava Acres), can’t find his reason to sing or dance, he becomes the odd bird out and chooses to run-away with the love sick Ramon (Robin Williams).
Things have changed drastically by the time they return, as a new bird, Sven (Hank Azaria), has entranced everyone because he is a penguin that can fly. When Mumble leaves to track down his son, he finds him embracing Sven and his philosophy of “If you want it, you must will it — if you will it, then it will be yours” and feels like he has failed to connect with his son.
Taking Erik and his friends Atticus (Lil P-Nut) and Boadica (Meibh Campbell) back home, they come across a large, aggressive elephant seal (Anthony LaPaglia) that they have to help out of a “tight” situation. Upon returning home, they realize a large iceberg has blocked the only entrance or exit to the emperor penguins’ gorge. Now, they must race against time to keep the thousands trapped inside fed while also looking for a way to get them out. Mumble must use every step in his repertoire to recruit every friend possible to help save his mate Gloria and the rest of the trapped penguins. Along the way, Erik must also find his own reason to make music that is true to who he is.
First off, I was a huge fan of the first “Happy Feet” and I thought it deserved all of the praise and awards it received. The music, visuals and valuable messages were enough to keep children and adults equally entertained. Now in “Happy Feet Two,” you have all of the same ingredients but it feels oddly different. The fun and music that make you want to dance are still there, but for some reason, the hook in the story doesn’t feel as perilous as before.
Having said that, the voice talents are just as pitch-perfect as ever, with some new recruits to this animated penguin world. P!nk fits into the role of Gloria perfectly and has as much heart and musical talent as the late Brittany Murphy, while making the role her own. She even contributes an original song to the movie, which will have many tearing up. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are hysterical as two Krill, one wanting to seek adventure and the other tagging along. They are worthy of their own spin-off short, but they also draw too much attention in this film.
Sofia Vergara plays Carmen, the unfortunate object of Ramon’s affections. Robin Williams does double-duty once again as the advice guru Lovelace and love sick Ramon. There are so many in the extended cast that returned as well: Hugo Weaving, Magda Szubanski, Common, Jeffrey Garcia, Lombardo Boyar and many more. The only two missing are Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman as Mumble’s parents, but it seems this story is about the new generation and they are never even mentioned.
Lastly, the two biggest draws of this movie are the music and the amazing use of 3D. In this chilling tale, sweet melodies and heartwarming moments are mixed with action in some of the best use of 3D in animation I have ever seen. The colors are more vibrant and the details sharper — from the different colors and textures of the ice down to the translucent shells on the krill — this film has gone even further with the intricacy of the animation.
With songs by Queen, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson and many others utilizing genres from rap, pop and opera, you are bound to find a song you want to sing-along with or dance in your seat to. There are also slower songs that show true emotion, especially P!nk’s original song “Bridge of Light,” which is accompanied by the aurora borealis and a sea of penguins in chorus. It is an endearing moment in the film.
With most of the same characteristics as the original, “Happy Feet Two” is bound to entertain kids and parent alike and it might even educate some, as the message underneath all of the fun is global warming and climate changes and the effects on wildlife. But the bottom line is that this frosty tale filled with sweet melodies, along with stunning visuals and heartwarming moments, is one that your kids will want to watch over and over again.
“Happy Feet Two” wobbles its way into theaters Nov. 18 and is rated PG for rude humor and mild peril.
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