Movie review: Happy Feet 2
Happy Feet 2 is now in theaters, just in time for the holiday season.
‘Happy Feet 2″ Has All the Right Moves, Music For Quality Sequel
By Maggie Scott
An oceanic invertebrate ponders the vicissitudes of a very unique segment of Antarctica’s avian population when it asks, “Does their dancing bring relief from the existential terrors of the world?” in director George Miller’s continuation of the story of the feathered citizens of Emperor Land—Happy Feet 2.
This witty bit of philosophical questioning is courtesy of a krill having a short-lived bit of rebellion against his life as a member of a “swarm” of “krillions” of his kind who live life at the “bottom of the food chain.” Bill the Krill and Will the Krill (voices of Matt Damon and Brad Pitt) peel off from the swarm and head out on their own in the vast ocean.
Will is convinced there’s something better out there than just being lunch for a whale, and he’s scaring his shrimpy companion Bill with his talk of evolving. Meanwhile, on what used to be firm land over their heads, Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood), his penguin family and all the animals living an interdependent life are facing the existential terror of the effects of global warming.
Cataclysmic forces unleashed by the effects of higher temperatures are shifting and shearing the edges of their vast continental world, eventually land-locking thousands of flightless birds who survive on the imperiled bounty of the ocean. Before this dire situation, Mumble is having a rough time getting through to his young chick Erik (voice of Ava Acres). In 2006’s smash hit, Happy Feet, our hero Mumble taught the penguins to dance and they taught him to find his “heartsong” voice. Does Erik have either one?
What Erik really wants is to fly. He thinks it’s possible when he meets Sven (voice of Hank Azaria), who claims to be the last of his penguin breed, even though his wings let him take flight—in marked contrast to the admiring penguins who fete him with rousing song and dance numbers, led by Lovelace, the Guru (voice of Robin Williams). Despite Dad’s reality checks, Erik thinks there’s hope that he and others might learn to break gravity’s bonds.
Until then, he and his pals wander off and meet the timid, would-be-lover Ramon (voice of Robin Williams), of the Adelie Amigos penguins. He’s afraid of the water and what lurks in its depth; and looks pretty foolish to Erik and the others. But, his day to prove his worth will come, as it does for Mumble and Erik, when they join forces with Bryan, an Elephant Seal (voice of Richard Carter), repaying Mumble for rescuing him from a crevasse, to free the trapped birds. It will take minds, voices and feet working together to get it done.
Quite clearly, beyond the theme of life’s interconnectedness, this work’s theme is a plea not to “look after your kind and I’ll look after mine.” Each group and each individual brings important, even life-saving elements to the table; and each has much to learn from the other. As a moral and an admonition, it is timely and urgent, and goes down easily here, even as couched in some incongruous, thinly sketched sequences (Miller and three others worked on the script; while Miller contributed to some of the score’s original songs).
Brightest and merriest of the backgrounds, characters and banter is the material surrounding the krills. Overall the animation is simply superb; but it especially thrills in the blazing, writhing orange swarm of krill and in the undulating bodies of Will and Bill, with their bulging, expressive eyes. Most clashing is the mix of music styles, from rap and R&B to the theme from “Rawhide,” rock anthems like “We Are the Champions” and Cavaradossi’s aria from Tosca, of which Erik (finding his singing voice at last) gives an impassioned (and ear-splitting) performance (with different words, of course) to change Bryan’s mind about helping the penguins.
Good luck understanding words in the gangbusters group vocals. But savor Pink’s luscious voice in her ballad and Damon’s mischievous one in renditions of snatches of pop standards; and, most of all, wonder at the detail of blizzard, bubble and blubber as electronically crafted by the wizards of Sydney’s Animal Logic, Australia’s version of Pixar, and Dr. D Studios. Rated PG.
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