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Happy Feet Two IMAX 3D (2011)

November 20, 2011

written by: George Miller, Gary Eck, Warren Coleman and Paul Livingston
produced by: George Miller, Bill Miller and Doug Miller 
directed by: George Miller
rating: PG (for some rude humor and mild peril) 
runtime: 105 min.
U.S. release date: November 18, 2011
2006’s computer-animated feature “Happy Feet” was a huge hit for Australian director George Miller and Warner Bros. studios. Known for the Mad Max films, “The Witches of Eastwick” and “Dead Calm”, a movie with singing and dancing Antarctic animal life may have seemed like a stretch, but then again this is the guy directed the two “Babe” movies, which also had talking and singing animals. While the first film had some admirably animation, overall it didn’t do much for me. The use of popular music outfitted for flippers and fluffy feathers just didn’t strike the right chord. I tolerated the heavy-handed ecological message, but the characters became annoying after a while. So, it comes as no surprise that “Happy Feet Two” provides nothing more than a nice-looking distraction, with no wings to give it flight into a different or better direction. 
Most of the same characters have returned for the sequel, which means those actors know not to turn down a relatively lucrative gig. Mumbles the Emperor Penguin aka Mr. Happy Feet (voiced by Elijah Wood), is back and he and his soulful singing mate Gloria (Alecia Moore (Pink), replacing the late Brittany Murphy) have a chick named Erik (voiced by 50 year-old voice actress, E.G.  Daily) who can’t dance. This makes him feel left out as it is, so when he is ridiculed for attempting to boogie, his humiliation sends him packing with a couple of friends, as they follow self-proclaimed exile, Ramon (Robin Williams, who also voices another penguin, the sweatered Lovelace) into the vast open arctic. 
They soon come across a different group of penguins who are enamored by the Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), a Norwegian puffin who allows everyone to believe he’s a penguin who can fly. Erik becomes hooked by his story of survival during human captivity (told in an odd backstory), as well as his self-help guru proclamations. As Mumbles sets out to retrieve his son, an enormous glacier traps his friends and family from any source of food. Once reunited with Erik, Mumbles must not only compete with the influence Sven has on Erik, but also find safe passage for his community. 
Floating throughout the movie are two new characters, Will and Bill (hilariously voiced by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon), a comedic pair of krill who have discarded their swarm and embarked on a journey to flip their position on the food chain. Will is determined to become a predator, often disregarding the worrisome Bill, who would just like to settle down and raise baby crustaceans with Will. Between the homosexual suggestions (Damon belts out Wham! tunes) and the precarious adventures the duo experience, this hilariously animated pair are the highlight of an otherwise rather boring and overlong feature. Granted, you may have to endure such tedious puns like, “Where there’s a krill, there’s a way!” or “Goodbye, krill world!”.
Other characters inhabiting the South Pole are played by Hugo Weaving, Sofia Vergara, Common, and Anthony LaPaglia. All are very good, but all these characters felt like an overpopulation of accents and attitudes.
The screenwriters also inject a bizarre sequence that includes a crew from a nearby Russian ship who try to assist the trapped penguins. The humans seem vividly real (thanks to some amazing mocap animation), which is kind of jarring in an environment populated by cartoonish creatures. Some of their actions left me with a giant question mark. Like when a dancing penguin purposefully attracts the attention of a crew member, who replies by proceeding to jam on his electric guitar or when the entire crew actually journey inland to try to chip away at the icy glacier wall only to give up after a snowstorm blows through. I was left wondering what the inclusion of humans was all about.

Miller and his crew aren’t concerned with providing any real new material here. Instead, he relies on dancing, singing, rescuing, with a dash of global warming. In the last film, I found myself wishing that the movie could’ve showcased original musical numbers, instead of inserting remixed versions of pop tunes. The opening medley includes Janet Jackson’s “Rythmn Nation” and Justin Timberlake’s “Bringing Sexy Back” (excuse me, just replace “Sexy” with “Fluffy” and chuckle) has a grating effect with its annoying CGI sea of grooving birds. Clearly, “more of the same” was the formula here, in an effort to tap into the lucrative previous movie. 
Seeing “Happy Feet Two” in IMAX 3D is a visually absorbing spectacle. The red-orange swirling mass of krill was quite breathtaking as was much of the undersea antics. If only there was less forced cuteness and overused songs (you can never hear enough of Queen’s “Under Pressure”, right?) and more of a coherent storyline that would enhance the importance of selflessness and community the movie touched on. 
Pixar proved earlier this year with “Cars 2” that not all animated sequels will do well, whereas Dreamworks has stepped it up with some worthy features like “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Puss in Boots”. Sure, “Happy Feet Two” is entertaining kiddie fare, but with all the animated features being released each year, the last thing moviegoers need is a rinse and repeat sequel.
Before the movie starts, Warner Bros. has included a great treat. A Looney Tunes short starring Tweety and Sylvester called “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat”, starring the late great Mel Blanc and 94 year-old June Foray (who’s voiced Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Cindy Lou Woo). It’s madcap and hilarious, but seeing Sylvester’s spray of spit in 3D is well worth it. 



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