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Review: HAPPY FEET TWO

November 18th, 2011 in Reviews by 0 Comments

Happy Feet Two is 105 minutes of pure, unadulterated guilty pleasure fun. Take the opening scene as proof: The movie opens with a beautiful speech beginning with “Brothers and sisters, penguins one and all…” illustrating that unity and community is important and that everything is connected, very Circle of Life stuff. This is followed by thousands of penguins in a dance medley including Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Rufus and Chaka Kahn’s “Ain’t Nobody.”

In the original Happy Feet (2006) Mumble (Elijah Wood) was an outcast in his Emperor Penguin world because he couldn’t sing like other penguins. Each penguin had a “Heartsong” which was used to attract their life mate. Mumble couldn’t sing but he could dance. He was mocked for being different, blamed for the misfortune of the group and even cast out. Through his ability to dance, he attracted his life mate, Gloria (voiced by Brittany Murphy).

Mumble (still voiced by Wood) is all grown up now and he and Gloria (now voiced by Alecia Moore – a.k.a. Pink) have a little penguin of their own named Erik (E.G. Daily, who actually voiced Baby Mumble in the original Happy Feet). As you can tell from the description of the opening number, the penguins now embrace dance. Now penguins not only sing but find reasons to dance. Early on little Erik looks up at his father and asks, “What’s mine Papa?” You see, Erik isn’t very coordinated, as evidenced by an early face plant. Erik is embarrassed and goes to blow off some steam with his friends. Of course they go missing and Mumble goes to look for them. We see from Mumble not only general concern for his son, but also his insecurities he feels about his ability to be a good father (as evidenced by “losing” his son).

Through his journey, Erik encounters a flying penguin (or is he?) named Sven (voiced brilliantly by Hank Azaria, Swedish accent and all) who instantly becomes his idol. Erik sees Sven’s confidence and swagger and his grace while flying and is instantly drawn to him. Sven is with Lovelace, the guru penguin who is voiced so expertly by Robin Williams (reprising his role from the first film) and is clothed in one of the most obnoxious, colorful sweaters you will ever see. Mumble catches up to Erik and his little buddies and finds himself very jealous of his son’s obsession with Sven. We are also reunited with Ramon, the jive talking chest puffing out penguin from the first film also voiced by Williams. He is so smooth and suave (in his own mind) and is still looking for love. He is quite envious of Sven as well. You see Ramon is looking for love and Sven has captured the hearts of all the lady penguins.

On a tangential, concurrent storyline we are introduced to a couple of Krills: Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon). Krills are tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans who are extremely resilient and capable of groan-inducing puns (“one in a krillion”, “goodbye krill world”). Will and Bill are best friends but polar opposites. Bill is the sidekick and is very satisfied with the quiet, stress free lifestyle of the krill. Will seeks adventure and excitement and even tries to alter his place on the food chain by exclaiming “I wanna eat something that has a face on it!” Will and Bill have some extremely funny interactions but also serve as an illustration of what can happen to the dynamic of a friendship when the friends want totally different things. Can the strength of their bond hold up? Will they be hetero life mates forever? With some help from Wham and Rick Astley they figure it out.

Back to our penguins. On top of the disappointment of his son finding a hero that isn’t him, due to seismic activity (presumably due to global warming) Mumble finds his task of getting his son and friends back home safely just got considerably harder. Mumble and crew come across a stranded Elephant Seal named Bryan who needs some help out of a tight spot. All Bryan has to do is back away. One problem, Elephant Seals, especially Bryan DO NOT BACK DOWN! This becomes a theme for Bryan and I was shocked that at no point in this film does Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” make an appearance. With this film’s obviously huge song rights usage budget there is just no reasonable excuse for this oversight.

One of the real stars of the show was the music. In addition the opening medley and the Wham and Rick Astley mentioned earlier, there were appearances of “Shake It Fast” by Mystikal “Walk It Out” by UNK (which is the theme song for America’s Best Dance Crew), “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” by The Rivingtons and a mind blowing rendition of “Under Pressure” performed by Pink (that graciously does NOT turn into “Ice Ice Baby”). Pink also contributed an original song entitled “Bridge of Light” that was powerful, beautiful and quite moving.

Pink deserves a lot of credit for her performance in this film. First of all, it is extremely difficult for an actress to replace someone who is not only deceased but was beloved by many. Brittany Murphy did such a wonderful job in the first film and was generally well liked. Somehow you could hear the tribute to Brittany and her previous performance in Pink’s voice. Pink also had a tremendous amount of credibility playing the mama penguin role so well because she really was the glue that kept her family and all the penguins really, together. Plus, I gotta say it, she is a sexy penguin.

Another strength of the film is how relatable the characters’ issues are to the audience. Erik wants to find his purpose, his inspiration. Mumble wants to be a good father and earn the respect of his son, Glora just wants t keep her family safe and happy. Will wants to change his station in life but needs to appreciate where he is as well and Bill is there to take care of his buddy. Ramon wants love, Sven wants to be admired by all and Ramon just wants love (SPOILER alert, he does find it with Carmen who is voiced by Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara). Bryan’s inability to back down will probably ring true with a lot of the male members of the audience.

Is Happy Feet Two cheesy? Yes. Is some of the humor so over the top that you will find yourself shaking your head numerous times? Yes. Is some of the dialogue predictable? Judge for yourself: “Do you have a tail feather?” Most of you can fill in the next line (If you can’t, leave a comment and I’ll let you know what it is).

All of that just adds to this movie’s charm. The fact is that you will have a lot of fun watching this movie and if you have children they will absolutely adore it. You will love the characters, the music and the dancing. You will root for the characters to find solutions to their ever increasing problems and get home safely. You will be hoping that the characters can resolve their issues. The kids will appreciate the surface levels of this movie but the adults will be able to get a lot more out of it. To a certain extent, check your “grown up self” at the door, leave the cynicism at home and I think that even if you don’t want to, you will find yourself tapping along with your own happy feet. Who knows, you might even surprise yourself and shed a tear.

Even if you are not into all of that, the animation is beautiful and the 3D makes it really pop! This movie is extremely visually appealing and as an added bonus, warms your heart too. It is a great teaching tool for kids on how to try and figure out who they want to be, how to overcome obstacles and how to work together and think globally. Also, a HUGE lesson is to learn how to accept others, especially those who are different from us. If nothing else, it is worth it for that reason alone.

Author: Mike D

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