Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: George Miller
Stars: voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Alecia (pink) Moore, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Common, Sofia Vergara, Hugo Weaving, Richard Carter, Magda Szubanski, Anthony La Paglia, Ava Acres, Benjamin Flores jr.
George Miller (Mad Max, etc) returns to the snow covered climes of Antarctica and the wonderful world of the cute singing, dancing Emperor penguins with this sequel to his Oscar-winning 2006 animated film Happy Feet. Like the first film, the film explores some strong themes, like parental responsibility, the relationship between fathers and sons, self-belief, and the importance of celebrating differences. And there are some infectious musical numbers interspersed throughout (including Rhythm Nation, Under Pressure, etc) that will have audiences tapping their feet.
Unlike a lot of lazy sequels which are merely content to repeat a winning formula, Miller and his team of writers (Warren Coleman, Gary Eck and Paul Livingston) push the very busy material in some new directions, and there are several subplots woven throughout the narrative. This time the tone of the material is a little darker, and features some subtle environmental warnings about endangered species, global warming, the delicate balance of nature, and the melting ice cap.
Mumbles (Elijah Wood), the protagonist of the first film, is now an adult who is trying to teach his shy son Erik (Ava Acres) the importance of dance and rhythm. But suffering a humiliating experience, Erik runs away from the nest, determined to find himself. He ends up on the other side of the ice cap with a colony of Adele penguins. There he falls under the spell of Sven (Hank Azaria), a penguin who can fly, and who is given godlike status by the penguins. But the hero worship is misplaced, which provides an important lesson for the highly impressionable young Erik.
Mumbles sets out to find Erik, which triggers a series of adventures. The climax sees Mumbles bring together thousands of penguins and elephant seals in order to rescue the Emperor penguins trapped in an icy chasm following a tsunami.
Miller and co have introduced some colourful new characters to add spice to the mix. Prominent amongst them is Azaria’s hyperactive and eccentric Mighty Sven, and Will and Bill, a pair of existentially minded and sexually ambiguous krill whose desire to be free and escape from their place in the food chain provides much of the humour. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt revel in their heavily innuendo-laden dialogue, which at times seems a bit risque for a G-rated family friendly film.
Richard Carter is Brian the Beachmaster, a broadly Australian accented elephant seal. And pop star Pink (credited under her real name of Alecia Moore) steps into the role of Gloria, previously played by the late Brittany Murphy. Robin Williams gives his usual hyperactive vocal gymnastics another workout here in the dual role of Ramon, the lovelorn penguin looking for a sympathetic mate, and the colourfully attired hippie Lovelace. Familiar names like Hugo Weaving, Anthony La Paglia and Magda Szubanski round out the solid vocal cast.
The computer-generated animation is quite spectacular here, and Miller and his team make good use of the 3D process, especially in many of the underwater scenes and the Antarctic landscapes. And there are some live action scenes involving humans that have been carefully integrated into the animation. A solid and entertaining sequel, Happy Feet Two will find an appreciative audience, especially given the in-built affection felt for cute cinematic penguins by children. And there are plenty of irresistibly cute penguins on display here!