For most of us Happy Feet reminds us of its cute dancing and singing penguins but the Academy award winning film also stood out because of its subtext that you wouldn’t expect to be touched on a movie targeted to kids. Happy Feet 2 further dove to a deeper direction but resulted to a weaker narrative but it is simply charming enough that you really wouldn’t mind the flaws.
Erik (EG Daily) is experiencing the same dilemma his father, Mumbles (Elijah Wood), had when he was young: he’s an outcast too but in a more difficult spot because he can neither dance like his father nor sing well like her mother Gloria (Pink). Mumble tries to comfort his son but he’s having a tough time to connect with him. Erik meets Sven (Hank Azaria) a penguin who can fly and Erik soon idolizes him much to Mumble’s dismay. Later on, a change in their natural habitat threatens the future of the entire emperor penguin community and it’s only up to Mumble along with Erik and some unlikely friends to save their kind.
Happy Feet 2 dealt with a lot of topics that include the interconnectivity of the ecosystem, environmental threats, false prophets, parenthood troubles, existentialism, growing up and finding your voice. Yes all of it. It’s a lot of topics to deal with and given the limited running time, hard to flesh out. The movie raises some good insights with each issue they touched upon but with too many big and complex ideas the narrative loses focus. The main story between Mumble and Erik was solid although due to the several things that were going on in the movie, their conflict was placed in the backseat a lot of time but thankfully it managed to have a strong resolution to make up for the lack of momentum. The environmental message they were trying to convey could have use some subtlety but the idea they presented about what could happen to a natural habitat was thought provoking. However, the way they resolved the penguin community crisis was too simple although it was understandable since this is still a kid’s movie plus it brought an awesome sequence that wisely uses the song “Under Pressure”.
There are subplots that were shortchanged like Sven’s since I thought the character would have a major connection to the narrative as a whole but the pay off was weak. I’m guessing the writers took one step back with Sven’s story because of its evangelical overtones but the way the character was introduced was so grand that it was a shame that he didn’t leave a bigger impact in the end. On the contrary, Happy Feet 2 was successful in elevating what could have been an unnecessary subplot of the krill with an existential crisis Will (Brad Pitt) and his buddy Bill (Matt Damon) and make it drive one of the movie’s strong point: the interconnectivity of everything and learning how to adapt. The movie could have simply place them as just comic relief but the krills’ part was substantial even if it’s loosely connected to the main story.
The technical side of the movie is top notch. While you can still enjoy the movie in regular 2D, the 3D experience will be worth the premium ticket price because of its amazing visuals. A lot of 3D movies released recently didn’t feel like 3D added anything to the experience but this one is immersive and not just in the throw-something-in-the-audience kind of way but it complemented the setting perfectly.
The musical numbers had lesser impact in this sequel compared to the first one but they were all entertaining. The “Under Pressure” sequence I mentioned earlier was the highlight of the movie because the execution was really spectacular. The voice cast was pretty great as well but Alecia Moore aka Pink (who replaced the late Britanny Murphy) as Gloria stood out in the musical numbers.
Happy Feet 2 is a gorgeous animated movie and definitely a visual delight. And despite suffering from an indecisive screenplay, Happy Feet 2 still shines because it’s downright entertaining and sometimes that’s just what we need. 8 / 10