Happy Feet Two Review: P-P-P-Pick Up A Penguin

HAPPY FEET TWO (3D) (U): On General Release Friday 2nd December

When is the world going to get sick of penguins?  The waddling little Chaplin impersonators are everywhere from the recent series of Frozen Planet to March Of The Penguins to Jim Carrey’s Mr Popper’s Penguins. Back in 2006 we were given Happy Feet which at first looked like it would be rubbish but actually turned out to be rather good.

Happy Feet Two is the somewhat inevitable sequel and stars Elijah Wood as the tap-dancing penguin Mumble whose son Erik runs away from home because he can’t dance.  Chasing after Erik and his friends Boadicea and Atticus,  Mumble stumbles across another colony of penguins led by Lovelace (Robin Williams) all of whom are completely in awe of the puffin Sven (Hank Azaria) who they think is a variety of flying penguin.

Before they can return home, there’s a glacial shift and their colony is left isolated and trapped in an inhospitable valley leaving Mumble, Erik and their new found friends to work out a way to get them out before it’s too late.

Elsewhere, a pair of krill (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon no less), struggle with existentialist peril when they separate from their swarm of millions and start to question their roles in life.

The vocal cast is adequate but not spectacular.  Robin Williams pulls double duty as both Lovelace and rockhopper penguin Ramon to good comic effect but it’s difficult not to hear him without instantly thinking of the Genie from Aladdin, a more rounded and better suited role.  It’s a prerequisite that any big-studio animation has a celebrity voice cast but none of the characters call for anything especially demanding.

Surprisingly, the major highlights are Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as the adventurous krill.  Their story takes place parallel to that of the penguins but it’s a welcome break – an explosion of colour mixed with some cleverly observant existentialist jokes which are delightfully unexpected.

Where Happy Feet Two does score is in its visuals as it looks absolutely stunning.  Ice crystals believably crinkle under the feet of thousands of penguins, water and snow splash realistically and there’s a krill light show which is nothing short of spectacular.  The 3D as usual is unnecessary and extra money shouldn’t be forked-out a 3D ticket.

The songs are also mostly fine, starting terribly but noticeably improving as the film progresses culminating in a truly moving operatic rallying call and a toe-tappingly fun version of Queen’s Under Pressure.

It’s just a shame that with such a colourful cast of characters, there’s not much for them to do.  The main plot takes place entirely in one location and is far less interesting than the subplot involving the krill.   There are also a worrying number of shots which are just there because “penguins are cute” without any real context and while there are set-pieces, there’s nothing that impresses on quite the same level as the first movie.

Nevertheless, some dodgy plotting aside, Happy Feet Two is an enjoyable sequel which features some fun songs, gorgeous animation and some unexpected pleasures.

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