Dancing and singing penguins even less exciting the second time around
There was no need for a sequel to Happy Feet.
Sure, the 2006 animated flick grossed more than $380 million worldwide. It also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, but it was a very weak year, if you ask me (Happy Feet was up against Cars and Monster House.)
In Happy Feet Two, we are reunited with penguin super couple Mumble and Gloria (voiced by Elijah Wood and singer Pink) and their firstborn Erik, the penguin born at the end of the first movie. It seems talent is genetic: in Happy Feet, Mumble was a young penguin who couldn’t sing, but could dance up a storm. In Two, Erik can’t dance.
The movie starts with a grandiose song and dance medley that features a mash-up of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back,” which was sung “I’m bringing fluffy back” by baby penguins. It’s not as cute as producers think it is.
The film’s pulse flatlined after that musical sequence. The next 90 minutes drag on. Erik runs away from home with two of his friends and come across another cult-like colony of penguins who worship Sven, a penguin who can fly. He gives rousing speeches about believing in one’s self and how being different is nothing to be ashamed of. He coins the term “Sventhink” as a Secret-like philosophy that if you want and think of something hard enough, it will come to you. Erik takes that attitude back to Emperorland when his father finds him and his friends.
The film’s animation is superb: fur and snow have never looked as good as they do in Happy Feet Two. But the good stops there. While the producers did hire a slew of big names to voice the penguins and other animals, but Robin Williams, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt didn’t have much to work with. Damon and Pitt lent their voices to Bill an Will the Krill, the Happy Feet Two equivalent of Scrat the Squirrel in the Ice Age films, funny but ultimately useless characters introduced to distract from the unexciting main characters and story.
Miss Viola, a penguin mother, preaches that “every obstacle is an opportunity.” In Happy Feet Two, every obstacle is overcome quickly, dully and inconsequentially. I’m a firm believer that if an animated movie wants its message to stick, someone has to die (see Bambi for “hunting animals is bad” lesson; The Lion King for “Don’t cheat, don’t lie.” Happy Feet Two is far too preachy: adults will roll their eyes at the messages of inclusion and teamwork, and beyond looking at cute penguins and hearing the babies’ squeaky voices, children are also likely to be bored out of their minds.
Happy Feet Two’s message is clear. Global warming is bad and humans are evil. After ice caps melt because of humankind’s terrible judgement and disregard for the planet, the hundreds of penguins at Emperorland are stuck between glaciers and can’t get their food. It’s up to Erik, his friends and his dad, who were on their way back from Sven and his cult’s colony, to save them.
Happy Feet Two is right: humans are evil. I just happen to think the evil humans are the ones who greenlit this sequel.
This review was originally published on The Cafe Phenomenon.