HAPPY FEET TWO Movie Review
Animated movies generally are cute and/or moving, with an emphasis on the “and/or”. Their demographics are pretty predictable: children and their parents. However, some animated films can reach past children and into the rest of the demographics (I’m looking at you Toy Story, Up, and WALL-E).
There is an argument that Happy Feet, the original, achieved both cuteness and profundity. Being about penguins ratcheted up the “awwww”-factor, but the underlying themes pertaining to uniqueness and xenophobia made the film not only a children classic, but an interesting conversation starter. Although not as effective as some other movies, it hit some pretty powerful ideas. It was also very visually appealing.
HAPPY FEET TWO, in this sense, had a lot to live up to. Perhaps unfair, it still worked against the movie. Bringing out a similar story would make the film look weak on its own, or at least inferior to the original. Unfortunately, this is how the film will be received by a lot of audiences.
Happy Feet Two brings back Mumble (Elijah Wood), as the tap dancing, but tone deaf, penguin as its main character. This time around, Mumble must help his son Erik (E.G. Daily), who is a stage fright, and similarly awkward, penguin. When embarrassment gets the better of Erik, he decides to run away, meeting up with various characters along his journey. When Mumble sets out to find his son, the earthly forces create a huge problem that strands the rest of the penguins.
It is up to Mumble, Erik, and their unlikely team of arctic animals – including a flying penguin Sven (Hank Azaria), existential Krill Will (Brad Pitt), and giant elephant seal Beach Master (Richard Carter) to save the day. Like in the original, they must use the art of song and dance to help.
The song and dance is what set Happy Feet apart from the rest of the animated films. This time around, they don’t disappoint either. Although it may bore people who aren’t as much into musicals, it seems to find the perfect balance. There is just enough music to make it effective, without overusing it and turning people off.
Likewise, the visuals in this sequel are just as good, if not better. I won’t pretend to understand anything pertaining to animation, but I felt like they created some pretty awesome landscapes to play with. Also, the underwater scenes were incredible, reminding me of the classic Finding Nemo.
All of this made the movie inherently cute. However, it didn’t make the plot anything special.
By the end, the themes become a little too muddled, making the film easily the lesser of the two. Where global warming and human dominance seemed like an easy route to go, Happy Feet Two shied away. Instead, they focused again on creating a message to children that everyone is unique, and you shouldn’t let your uniqueness embarrass you. Just because you aren’t the greatest singer, dancer, or what-have-you, there is another talent out there for you.
One could argue that this theme is enough to make the movie great. For people who haven’t seen the original movie, yes, this would be true. But for those who know the first story, it becomes a little too much like the original.
Mumble was showcased as the main character in both movies, making Happy Feet Two a little competitive for character development. Erik is the one who should be growing as a character, yet the writers decided to make the film more about Mumble, who already had his time to shine. It would’ve been a lot better to showcase a different character.
This also works against some of the newly introduced characters, primarily the Krills. They are the funniest addition to the mix, but their stories don’t seem connected the main narrative. When you sit back and think about it, they shouldn’t be in the movie at all. This sad realization also tarnished the film.
Looking back, the movie still achieves a lot of good things. The music, visuals, and shear cuteness of the film will appeal to wider audiences. Nobody can deny that the story is, at the least, entertaining. Yes, it may fail to connect some larger issues, while having some obvious plot problems, but that doesn’t make it unwatchable.
Children will still enjoy the film quite a bit, it just isn’t as Earth-shaking (or groundbreaking if you will) as the original.