I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of ‘Happy Feet’, which had many good qualities but got bogged down by its ecological message (worthy though it was). The sequel still tries to tell too many stories, and winds up being a long string of dramatic climaxes, but it also plays to the first movie’s strengths: music, dance, and dramatic staging on an enormous canvas. (It’s even more impressive in IMAX 3-D, as I viewed it.) The end result may not win any prizes for narrative but it’s consistently entertaining, and a feast for the eyes.
While ‘Happy Feet’ focused on the tap-dancing Emperor Penguin named Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) this one spends more time with his little son Erik (voiced by E.G. Daily) who is simply irresistible. If one agrees that penguins in general are cute, Erik ups the ante considerably. I don’t want to give away the nature of Erik’s big moment, toward the end of the picture, but it’s one of the most surprising musical performances of the year.
The rest of the film is something of a smorgasbord, with new characters like Sven (Hank Azaria), a mystical penguin who captivates an entire tribe, and a newly-musical mate for Mumble, spoken and sung by Pink, who uses her real name, Alecia Moore, in the credits. Robin Williams is typically hilarious as both the romantic Ramón and the colorful Lovelace, while two new creatures enact their own adventure in a kind of sidebar to the movie: Will the Krill, enacted by Brad Pitt, and Bill the Krill, voiced by Matt Damon. Grownups in the audience will have fun listening to these two usually-dramatic actors having a field day with their wildly expressive dialogue.
I could easily nit-pick ‘Happy Feet Two’, but it’s shorter than the first film, and subtler in expressing its underlying message about the way everything on our planet is interconnected. I think it will entertain kids and keep parents happy, too.
The feature is preceded by a brand-new 3-D Looney Tunes short based on the wonderful old Capitol Records single ‘I Taut I Taw a Puddy Tat’, sung by Mel Blanc as Tweety and Sylvester (with a brief new interjection by June Foray as Granny). Matthew O’Callaghan, who directed last year’s new Road Runner cartoons, has again brought two beloved characters back to life in three-dimensional CG form without losing an iota of their original personality. It’s great to see Tweety and Sylvester back on the big screen.