Genre: CG Animation
Director: George Miller
Cast: Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Sofia Vergara, Hank Azaria, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Pink, Hugo Weaving, Common, John Goodman, Ray Winstone
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: GV
Official Website: http://www.happyfeetmovie.com/
Opening Day: 17 November 2011
Synopsis: The sequel to the Academy Award winning animated smash hit, "Happy Feet Two" returns audiences to the magnificent landscape of Antarctica in superb 3D. Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son Erik is choreo-phobic. Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven - a penguin who can fly!! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model. But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces. Erik learns of his father's 'guts and grit' as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures - from tiny Krill to giant Elephant Seals - to put things right.
Content not to be left out in the cold (pun intended) while we party-animals dance and sing to the infectious beats of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexyback’, the toe-tapping Emperor penguins from George Miller’s 2006 animated hit ‘Happy Feet’ are back in the inevitable sequel- yes inevitable, since their maiden visit did make a whopping US$384mil worldwide and steal away the Oscar for Best Animated Film from Pixar. The sequel also sees Miller returning as co-writer and director, and that probably explains the retread of familiar themes from the predecessor.
The first movie celebrated difference through our hero Mumble, whose innate talent in tap-dancing and lack thereof in singing made him unlike his peers. Difference is once again the theme of this sequel, as Mumble finds that his son Erik (Elizabeth Daily, who voiced the young Mumble in the first film) is choreophobic and refuses to join the colony which has since embraced dance as a form of celebration. Erik sees no reason to dance, and after an attempt leaves him embarrassed, decides to leave the colony together with Ramon (Robin Williams) to find his place.
As with its predecessor, the sequel finds the eccentric Ramon taking the misfit Emperor penguin on a journey of discovery, a journey which leads them to a colony of Adele penguins led by returning Rockhopper penguin Lovelace (also the voice of Robin Williams) and The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria). Sven’s ability to fly has the entire colony in awe, and that includes Erik, who becomes fascinated that penguins can indeed will the ability to take to the skies. We’re not quite sure why, but accepting that penguins can fly is somewhat more difficult than accepting penguins that can sing and dance- thankfully, Miller and his co-writers Gary Eck, Warren Coleman and Paul Livingston have a handy explanation for that unusual phenomenon.
Nonetheless, they aren’t so creative with resolution and once again it is through the fate of the colony that Erik finds his purpose. Food is yet again the colony’s problem, as a breakaway ice sheet seals the penguins in on all sides. If you’re guessing rescue means teaching the Emperors how to fly, let us reassure you that it is fortunately not so straightforward, but rather a multi-species effort which includes the Adeles, the walruses and the krill underneath the sea- the last of which are really unsuspecting allies in the rescue effort.
It’s a massive undertaking no doubt, even more so for the animators (led by animation director Rob Coleman) who have truly outdone themselves in terms of scope. One can only imagine the work that must have gone into every detail bringing together so many species and so many individual beings together in one frame, so kudos to the team for their exceptional work. Yet amidst the visual cornucopia, Miller seems to have forgotten about Erik and his supposed coming-of-age journey- and anyone looking for a similarly touching tale as that of Mumble’s in ‘Happy Feet’ will probably be disappointed.
Erik’s story comes at the expense of a more varied list of characters- besides Ramon and Lovelace, there’s also Ramon’s brown-eyed love interest Carmen (Sofia Vergara), a brown-skinned elephant seal Bryan (Richard Carter) whom Mumble saves along the way, and two bromantic krill Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon) who have broken away from their school to find some higher meaning in their tiny existence. In fact, you’re likely to come off having a deeper impression of the pair of krill- who are also blessed with some of the best lines- than of our flurry protagonist Erik.
And if Erik takes a backseat to the sheer number of characters populating the film, then returning ones such as Gloria (singer Alecia Moore, better known as ‘Pink’, taking over from the late Brittany Murphy) and Noah the Elder (Hugo Weaving) get even shorter shrift. Ramon also gets less screen time than Williams’ other character Lovelace, whose friendship with Sven is explained in a perplexing black-and-white flashback that is told all too quickly and likely to leave one in bewilderment. Speaking of which, humans yet again feature in the sequel, though unlike before, their role here is largely ancillary to the penguins’ predicament.
But certainly we were never part of the appeal of ‘Happy Feet’ to begin with- which was undoubtedly the fun of seeing penguins sing and tap-dance. Save for Pink’s ‘Bridge of Light’ which gets a three-minute airing in the film, the former is surprisingly lacklustre- and the medleys of popular hits sung by the chorus of penguins mostly forgettable. Luckily, the tap-dancing (led once again by Savion Glover for Mumble) is just as delightful, especially to catchy tunes such as the Romanian hit song ‘Dragostea Din Tei’. Kudos once again to the animation team for their amazing rendition of the dance moves, especially for the finale, where- suffice to say- tap-dancing plays a significant role.
The outstanding animation is enough to warrant a recommend to family audiences, and it’s safe to say that tap-dancing penguins will still appeal to both adults and kids alike. Yes, if you’ve loved the first one, you’re likely to find much to like about this sequel. Pity however that director George Miller has decided to stick to the tried-and-tested formula of the first movie, which likely explains the similarity in themes and storytelling- though the latter admittedly pales in comparison no thanks to a less than compelling story arc for lead character Erik. It’s not likely to repeat the Oscar feat it scored six years ago, but this sequel is not without its charms and those looking for an enjoyable family-friendly animation with its own eco-message to boot will find some toe-tapping fun here.
(The toe-tapping penguins are back- what’s not to like?)
Review by Gabriel Chong