More penguins, more dancing set-pieces is what Happy Feet writer-director George Miller gives us again, probably because they make for vibrant family entertainment. Short of the penguin musical, the second film that had some huge boots to fill after the Award-winning first is rather a colourful, sing-song whirl of incoherent plot-lines and snatched, throwaway character comments, even if it does spell mega cute in places.
In Happy Feet Two, toe-tapping penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) is all grown up with a young, incredibly shy son called Erik (voiced by Ava Acres) who has two left flippers and can’t join in with the Emperors’ routines. Like father, like son, Erik struggles to fit into this world, and goes off to find Antarctic pastures new with friends Atticus (child rapper Lil P-Nut, Benjamin Flores Jr.) and Bo (Meibh Campbell).
They discover the Adélie penguins, where other ‘misfit’ pal Ramon (Robin Williams) comes from. Their group worships Sven (Hank Azaria), a puffin who can fly, and who Erik is inspired by. Meanwhile, Mumble goes off in search of his son, and after he leaves, an iceberg breaks up, trapping the Emperor colony. These results in meeting and bringing new species onboard and mounting a mammoth rescue. Oh, and there are some krill in the water’s depths called Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon) who decide to be adventurous one day, separating them from their kind and finding waters new…
Four separate writers, means four inputs into this story, including Miller again, which is obvious in terms of the convoluted plot. It’s as though Miller, Gary Eck, Warren Coleman and Paul Livingston pigheadedly opted to get their individual tastes in this to keep everyone happy. In fact the funniest parts – and ones that run as a separate story it seems – are the krill episodes, especially the banter between Pitt and Damon. You do expect the writers to join up the dots in the end to give their separate adventure some purpose, but they don’t. The krill merely live in parallel below the ice surface. Still, as well as the witty repartee, these parts of the film are an excuse for some of the most electric animation on offer.
Apart from the krill, comedy heavyweights Williams and Azaria do not disappoint in trying to inject some much-needed personality into their individual characters to save this film from hinging from one musical set-piece to another. The rest of it is fairly unmemorable long after the event, to be honest. The only astonishing penguin moment is when Erik finds his true talent and massive voice, breaking into a startling operatic rendition, which is quite unexpected and quite magnificent.
The other problem film Two has is all the settings feel like one, so even when the adventure goes off course in another direction there is no visual separation, expect miles of while snow and waddling penguin bodies – the krill moments come as welcome relief. This is an issue – and caused some restlessness among younger viewers – when you have introduced too many characters.
That said the values and morals are the same inspiring and honourable ones, and there are no darker elements in this, unlike other animations in recent years, making it trustworthy and solid family entertainment. Rocker Pink is also a penguin in this – Erik’s mother, Gloria, adding to its music medley, as well as Queen classics, We Are The Champions and Under Pressure, for older members of the audience to nod along to. What Happy Feet Two lacks in robust narrative is made up in song and dance, which provides the thrills – as well as the stars of the hour, the krills.
By Lisa Giles-Keddie