Happy Feet Two
Directed by: George Miller
Cast: Elijah Wood, Alecia Moore, Robin Williams, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: November 18, 2011
PLOT: A cult of rhythmic penguins use their tap-dancing skills to free a large swarm of penguins locked in by avalanches.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Do you see bad movies like Puss in Boots or anything with Shrek in the title, and wish there was more dancing? Do you watch “Glee” and wish it was cast with penguins instead of Broadway wannabes? Kids and parents, here’s Happy Feet Two. If you’re an American citizen who opposes gay crustaceans, prepare to have a hissy fit about Happy Feet Two.
EXPECTATIONS: I had not seen Happy Feet, which I forgot won the Oscar for “Best Animated Feature.” Even though dancing animal movies are usually my kryptonite, expectations were completely neutral, and the door of enjoyment completely open to whatever Feet was going to carry in with it.
Elijah Wood as Mumble: Apparently Mumble was more adorable in the first movie, but here he’s pretty bland, making way for other penguins with more colors to their characteristics. Happy Feet Two seems to be a movie that still has Mumble at the center, but he is so vanilla compared to others, especially with what sounds like an uninvolved voicing by Wood. Maybe at another time, Mumble stood out from the crowd, but now he’s just another creature in a sea of similar looking penguins.
Alecia Moore as Gloria: Also known in the pop charts as Pink, Moore is mostly here to scream during some gospel-like songs in the bookends of the movie. She is hardly given her own chance to stand out, even though she is the imprisoned mother and wife of Erik and Mumble. Watching this penguin’s vibrato is kind of freaky.
Robin Williams as Ramon/Lovelace: Likely because he’s Robin Williams, the actor is given two completely different parts to ham up with his fast talking and precise accents. As Ramon, his adoration for penguin Carmen (voiced by Sofia Vergara) is only funny when one pictures Williams attempting to woo the perfect Vergara in real life. As the colorful Lovelace, you’ll just keep wondering as to how he got that stylish “shirt.”
Matt Damon and Brad Pitt as Bill & Will the Krill: Even with the often hilarious Robin Williams working double shifts in Happy Feet Two, the most amusing characters are these two, who wander in and out of the movie almost with a reason completely apart from the saga of the penguins. Both Damon and Pitt toy with their voices to not sound immediately recognizable, but invest themselves in the absurdness of these two characters (who love each other as “partners”). One can guarantee that we won’t be seeing characters like this for a while (at least until a third Happy Feet movie).
Hank Azaria as Sven: Next to Williams, Azaria is probably one of the more fittingly zanier voice talents that one can get on board with their animated film. Here, as a puffin that poses as a penguin who can fly, Azaria toys with an accent that sounds more like Dracula than a native of any cold European country.
TALKING: Happy Feet Two speaks directly to children in a couple of instance, such as when a character says flat-out, “You shouldn’t make fun of someone because they’re different.” The most colorful dialogue comes from Bill and Will, who dish out puns that can be either amusing or cringe-worthy.
SIGHTS: Even though such dedication is put towards making armies of penguins dance, the animation of Happy Feet Two is consistently impressive, especially when things that appear small are bunched up in great numbers (the swarm of krill, the amount of penguins standing around, even the ice crystals). The melted water even looks very realistic. Watching penguins open their jaws to sing still seems unnatural even after sitting through a whole film of it (and even when they depict certain characters’ vibratos). Happy Feet Two also likes to show its detail by offering close-ups to characters faces, which can be admittedly claustrophobic. The film’s “camera” is always using wide shots and swooping view shots to give us a sense of the movie’s well-created environment.
SOUNDS: The song choices are unsuspecting, I’ll give that to this movie. The Happy Feet Two soundtrack does mix the old with the new, but not aggressively. “Walk It Out” by Unk is referenced along with “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and the soundtrack doesn’t stick to just hip-hop. The penguins in this film also sing gospel songs, and rock out to at least two Queen songs. The strangest pick for these penguins to sing might be a spin on a piece by Puccini, as sung by little penguin Erik. (Unless that melody is also heard in another production that I am unaware of.)
BEST SCENE: The penguins and elephant seals combine their stomping powers to break the ice that traps the penguins down below, all while singing “Under Pressure.” Perhaps I liked this scene the most because it reminded me of the same song’s usage in It’s Kind of A Funny Story.
ENDING: The penguins save the day, they unite with their elephant seal brethren, and the gay crustaceans learn some pretty profound things about their existence.
QUESTIONS: Where are the penguins playing back-up? Which penguin is in control of the iTunes? Are penguins that dance a step forward or backward from ruthless, violent penguins?
REWATCHABILITY: Personally, I’ll pass. However, babysitters and break-needing parents might find this to be an easy time-killer, so long as they don’t have to sit through it themselves.
It’s the small things that give Happy Feet Two any sort of cinematic charm – the philosophizing and possibly homosexual krill, the detail in the snow crystals, the brief moment in which someone sings “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley, etc.
It’s not the big things, which together indicate Happy Feet Two partially collapsing under itself when trying to give audiences what they want – dancing penguins, a continent full of unrecognizable voices, and some sort of story to fill in the gaps in between. Even though it’s musical aspect is one of the film’s more unbearable aspects, it’s still more put-together than the script’s story, which bounds around with numerous story lines until it tries to put everyone in the same situation, for better or for worse. Thankfully the movie doesn’t completely resign itself to being one of the most direct-to-your-wallet animated films ever made, but it doesn’t offer much else either. Even its “green” message, which supports protecting wildlife but also sees melting glaciers as a positive way to help creatures escape, is muddled.
Like a bad Kanye West album that uses a couple decent samples, Happy Feet Two is strongest in its smallest elements. But when combined with its larger aspects, the two just don’t add up very well.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10