THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"HAPPY FEET TWO"
Despite the 3-star review I gave it in 2006, I thought Happy Feet was a deeply weird movie. Penguins who abruptly break into song and dance? Absurd! And how did they know all those pop songs, given that they don't seem to have any radios there in the Antarctic? There's no denying that it was a gorgeous looking film, which probably accounts for its surprise Oscar win as Best Animated Feature (over Cars and Monster House), but from a storytelling perspective, it left something to be desired. Perhaps because I've seen this bag of tricks once, I didn't feel quite as willing to excuse the off-putting oddness of Happy Feet Two.
The story finds the now-grown Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) “married” to Gloria (pop singer Alecia “Pink” Moore, subbing for the late Brittany Murphy). Together, they have a son named Erik. After being humiliated during one of their trademark musical numbers, Erik runs away, and Mumble chases after him to bring him home. Upon their return, they discover that a shifting iceberg has trapped the rest of their community. They need to find a way to get everyone out of the hole they're stuck in. One person who may or may not be able to help is the Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), who claims to be the last of the so-called “flying penguins.” Meanwhile, two krill, Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon), decide to abandon their swarm and see what else is out there. Their journey collides with that of the penguins, not that anyone notices their presence.
As was the original, Happy Feet Two is beautifully animated. From every visual perspective, it is a captivating film to watch. The scenes of Will and Bill going against the swarming krill are especially eye-popping. Some individual moments work dramatically, such as a bit in which Mumble has to save an elephant seal that has fallen down a crevasse. There are also some moments of humor that made me chuckle.
While those are positive qualities, the series' odd traits were harder to overlook this time. The spontaneous singing and dancing was less frequent, and therefore felt more pointless. It feels like the filmmakers just picked songs out of a hat. Everything from Janet Jackson's “Rhythm Nation” to Queen's “We Are the Champions” to the theme from Rawhide gets tossed in. Most of the songs stick out like a sore thumb because they aren't well-integrated into the plot. I found the movie's willingness to indulge in itself frustrating too. The most egregious example is Robin Williams, who returns as Ramon, the penguin with the inexplicable and obnoxiously stereotypical Mexican accent. This time, he falls in love with a fellow Mexican penguin named Carmen (Sofia Vergara). Are there a lot of penguins in Mexico? I don't think so. It's clear that, the first time around, they simply let Williams “do his thing” and now they're stuck with it, even at the expense of logic and taste. The scattershot pace of the storytelling left me cold (no pun intended) as well. Happy Feet Two goes off on tangents that prevent the plot from catching hold.
I didn't hate the film. It's passable, and kids may dig the look. That said, I think I'm safe in saying that the Happy Feet franchise does not represent the best in the genre of animated fare. You get none of the magic normally associated with Pixar or DreamWorks efforts. Happy Feet Two is all right if your family has seen everything else in the market, I guess, but it's not necessarily something that deserves to be at the top of your must-see list.
( 1/2 out of four)
Happy Feet Two will be released on March 13 on DVD, in both 3D and 2D Blu-Ray/DVD combo packs, and as a digital download. Also available is a free Happy Feet Two movie app for IOS 4.2 or higher compatible devices, including iPhone, iPad, and iTouch. The app will sync with the Blu-Ray disc to offer enhanced content and interactive features while you watch the film. An UltraViolet copy of the movie also comes in the combo packs.
The bonus material on the Blu-Ray is quite good. It begins with “Helping Penguins and Pals,” an 11-minute documentary that teaches kids about the real-life versions of the creatures depicted in the film. Seeing actual krill, sea lions, and penguins is fun, and the footage of them is amazing. This is an informative little feature.
“How to Draw a Penguin” lasts about five minutes and has one of the film's artists showing how he used computer software to draw a character. He also provides a brief lesson on how you can draw one too. “Running with Bodice” is a short look at how one of the movie's supporting characters was given a parkour influence, while “The Amazing Voices of Happy Feet Two” takes us into the recording studio with the big-name cast. Watching Brad Pitt really get into his role is a particular highlight. “I Taut I Saw a Putty Tat” is a two-and-a-half minute computer animated Tweety & Sylvester cartoon. I'm old fashioned; I prefer the hand-drawn versions of these characters, but kids will probably like it.
A second section of the Blu-Ray is devoted to music. Pop singer Pink discusses the song she wrote/performed for the movie in one section. There are additionally sing-alongs to songs from the film, with lyrics printed on-screen.
Happy Feet Two really pops visually on Blu-Ray, and the sound is magnificent.
Happy Feet Two is rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril. The running time is 1 hour and 39 minutes.
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