November 16, 2011
Six years ago a happy go lucky penguin stole our hearts and danced away with an Oscar®. Mumbles is back tap dancing his way while trying to connect to a new generation, his son’s.
George Miller (Happy Feet) takes to the ice again helming a brilliant animation team lead by Rob Colman and art directors David Nelson and Lopsie Schwartz. Chiseling out the story, George leans on help from ‘Happy Feet’ alum Warren Coleman with addition sculpting from Gary Eck and Paul Livingston.
It has been some time since last we left Mumbles, Gloria, and Ramon. Mumbles and Gloria have a little one now named Erik. Ramon, well he is still searching for that right mamasita. Mumbles is struggling as a dad as he does not know when to “stop digging a hole once he starts” while trying to comfort Erik, after Erik embarrasses himself in front of the whole colony. It all started with Erik asking “why should I dance?” Since Mumbles can’t seem to help and Ramon wanting to get out and find a love of his own, Erik quietly follows Ramon to find his place in this world. A journey we all know too well.
Miller and his crew latch on to the success of ‘Happy Feet’ when it comes to the formula of the story. Kid is different, kid runs away to find himself, finds something that he wants and when he does he strives to show everyone what wonders he can do. If a feel good movie with amazing animation is what you want than ‘Happy Feet 2’ will do.
It is visually stunning to see with its wide angled views of the penguin’s home or the depths of our vast ocean but lacks a punch in fully developing the story due to too many characters introduced with no real reason other than what may feel like a way to have top name actors voice them. To fill out the edges we are entertained with crafty rewriting of hit songs and choreography reminiscent of classic musicals.
This adventure brings back some of your favorite animals. Steppin’ back in for Mumble is Elijah Wood (9, Lord of the Rings Trilogy) who is doing his best to be a great dad forgetting that to be a great dad you just need to be yourself and let your children make a choice for themselves once in a while. A good parent will pick them up after and help them make it. Robin Williams (Old Dogs, Happy Feet) is a perennial favorite for his sheer brilliance of talent even if it is just his voice. Whether he is the suave machismo Ramon, trying to find his mate or bringing down the rafters as the preaching Lovelace, Williams is ever talented with his vocal repartee. And do not forget the elder of the emperor penguins, Noah voiced by the ever regal sounding Hugo Weaving (Capt. America, Transformers).
As mentioned there are some new friends on the berg and some new voices to envelop your emotions. Mumble’s little one, Erik, is voiced by a very sweet young lady, Ava Acres, a child TV star in her own right who packs a punch hitting your heart in the right spot with her soft-spoken voice. Sofia Vergara (Modern Family) plays Ramon’s hard to get Latin bombshell, Carmen. The new “hero” in town that swoops away the imagination of Erik and what his purpose may be, is The Great Sven voiced by the man of a thousand voices, only rivaled by Robin Williams, Hank Azaria (The Simpsons, The Smurfs),whose voice can change with the wind.
Rounding out our newcomers are Will and Bill, the Krills voiced respectively by Brad Pitt (Moneyball, The Tree of Life) and Matt Damon (Contagion, The Adjustment Bureau), whom I contend incite the most laughter with their banter. And lending his voice to a different character than he did from the previous film, Richard Carter plays Bryan the Beachmaster elephant seal.
Now this film would be empty without the love from the first film, Gloria. With much warmth and admiration, Alecia “Pink” Moore graciously stepped in for the late Brittany Murphy. Pink had more than a voice to add to the character with her sultry smooth and ever beautiful singing.
Speaking of singing and the dancing that ensues, we are treated again the mass flash mob essence of the penguins and the many new faces we are introduced to in the film. From the opening number that includes “Sexyback” to a rendition of one of my favorite songs, “Under Pressure”, you enjoy the togetherness of these animals and forget the realism of the problems they are trying to overcome. I will point out “Erik’s Opera” threw me for a loop as John Powell incorporates Puccini into a mix that has been traditionally top 40 hits. A little daring, but well played.
The Live Action team does a great job of capturing the elaborate movements that the animation team transforms into these exuberant animals. Led by animation director Rob Coleman, the overall scope and feel of the animation is as stunning as rival Pixar. With choreography being created and performed by the tap master Savion Glover to bring the gyrations of the penguins to life, you are sure to see a lot of awe inspiring moments on the screen.
All of this is brought together by miller but does have a down side, or rather a dark side. With the first ‘Happy Feet’ we had the environmental over tones that dominated the story and the creep back in for the second go around. Rather low key compared to the first film it is still present, this time in the form of global warming causing an iceberg to rip off and cut off our favorite emperor penguins from the world. The story also introduces the inspirational character The Mighty Sven (Azaria) who is really an imposter and provides false aspirations for his own reward. We see Mumble’s as a rather apathetic father that forgets how to relate to his son who is following in his dad’s same footsteps of self discovery.
I am not saying it wasn’t an enjoyable film; it is an entertaining film. It just has too many characters, each with their own story that mirrors each others. You have Erik (Acres) on a self discovery tour with Mumble’s (Wood) trying to help him. Along the way they meet Bryan (Carter) who is all about himself and not compromising, Lovelace (Williams) is in his own little world again and then we have Bill (Damon) and Will (Pitt) the Krill’s. Will is done being a krill and wants to be different and Will is his sidekick, bromance, best friend that is along for the ride trying to persuade him to stay with the swarm. These two, for the better part of the film are the mirror to what is happening with Erik; only their story is drawn out through the film. I must say that their writing is the most creative and quite hilarious.
As I have stated, this film is entertaining and is good for all ages. Little ones may have a tough time with a few scenes but that goes without saying with almost any film these days no matter what the rating may be. Just remember this film may have your little ones asking you questions after, just giving you fare warning. Remember it is an animated feature and it does have wonderful animation. This is a good film to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon with the whole family.
If you want to look deeper into this film there is a whole mess of things you can draw from it. Don’t underestimate your children, question what life gives you or dare to step out from the norm. It is the same challenges that all of us have gone through and will continue to go through as humanity ever evolves. But there is the one outlying issue that the “Happy Feet” franchise has been, well, not quite subtle in letting every one of us know; responsibility of our actions. It doesn’t matter if it is with the environment or our professional and personal lives we need to be conscientious of what we do. If we don’t someone, something, some animal may be gone forever. Our actions are always stronger than our words and should be respected as such. Think before you act and your life will be more prosperous.