Today: June 20, 2024
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Happy Feet Two

You can count on one flipper the number of sequels that

You can count on one flipper the number of sequels that are
better than the original movie.
The Godfather Part II? Arguable. The Matrix
sequels? Eh, no. The
Empire Strikes Back
?
Definitely. Mad Max 2? Oh, yes… Which brings us to Mad Max-director George Miller’s latest film, Happy Feet Two, the sequel to his enormously successful 2006
cute-dancing-penguin movie, Happy Feet.

Five years on from the events of Happy Feet, dancing Emperor penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood) and his mate Gloria are now parents but their chick
Erik (Ava Acres) is definitely a
chip off the old block. Like his
father in the first film, Erik’s a little neurotic and lacks confidence. He’s too scared to dance and feels like
an outcast. When the other penguins
laugh at his ungainly attempts at footwork, Erik does what any self-respecting,
cute, juvenile, talking animal in an animated kids movie would do; he and two
friends run away from home, taking with them Mumble’s motor-mouthed best buddy,
Hispanic-penguin Ramon (Robin Williams).

With a worried Mumble in hot pursuit, they head for the
neighbouring Adelie-land, home to penguin guru Lovelace (Williams again),
Ramon’s Amigos and the Adelie penguins, where Ramon has convinced them they’ll
be accepted for who they are. Once
there, Erik is dazzled by his new hero, Sven the flying ‘penguin’ (who looks
suspiciously like a puffin and is voiced by Simpsons favourite Hank
Azaria
) who’s worshipped like a messiah by the Adelies who practice his
feel-good mantra “If you want it, you must will it. If you will it, it will be yours.”

But when climate change causes a rogue iceberg to trap
Gloria and the Emperors, cutting them off from the ocean and its fish,
threatening them with starvation, it’s up to Mumble and Erik to save the
Emperor nation.

Meanwhile, two tiny krill, Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt
Damon
) just realised they’re at the bottom of the food chain and set out on
a spiritual and philosophical quest to evolve…

A kids film that’s actually intelligent as well as
exuberant, feel-good fun, Miller ups the pleasure ante on the original film
without softening or dumbing down the film’s eco-message. While the colony was under threat
before from human overfishing, this time round it’s global warming and the
effects of rapid climate change that endanger the penguins. In a none-too-subtle but still
effective plea for global cooperation and brotherhood, Mumble and Erik enlist a
host of other Antarctic creatures to help save the colony, everyone working
together for the good of the whole.
If the drive of the first film was Mumble’s quest for identity and
battle for acceptance, this time round it’s son Erik who must rebel and find
his way in life. Meanwhile Mumble must prove himself as a father and win back
his son’s love leading to possibly the most naked tugging of heartstrings in a
film this year as Erik adapts Cavardossi’s aria from Tosca into a loving ode to his father that would make Puccini proud
and bring tears to a glass eye.

Visually the film is stunning, the seductive 3D immersing
you in the film’s world of dazzling snowy vistas and murky ocean depths, and if
you see it in IMAX (as I did at London’s BFI IMAX which boasts the UK’s largest
screen) the effect is jaw-dropping; battalions of penguins dancing around you,
swimming in the midst of a swarm of krill. There’s nothing quite so joyous as looking around at an
audience of under-7s and watching them duck as a predatory whale glides past
overhead, try to catch snow or reach out and try and pop 3D air bubbles.

The performances are fantastic with Elijah Wood’s Mumble a
credible new parent trying desperately to relate to his offspring and Ava Acres
making Erik as cute and lovable as he looks while Pink replaces the late Brittany
Murphy
seamlessly as Gloria.
Williams again pulls double duty as latin-lover Ramon and laidback
Lovelace, breathing life into these two very different characters but this time
he shares comedy duties with Hank Azaria’s deluded, puffed-up puffin and Pitt
and Damon who practically swim off with the film as the philosophical krill,
Will and Bill, who could have wandered in from a Beckett play.

Pitt’s Will is a blustering adventurer, gripped by
existential crisis when he realises that he matters little in the grand scheme
of things and resolves to move on up the food chain by becoming a carnivore (“I
want to chew on something that has a face!”), Damon is the sensitive Bill, a
timid critter who worships the water Will swims in. Their homoerotic bromance and quest to discover their
individuality provides both the funniest, smartest exchanges in the film (“I
fear the worst,” says one, the other replying “I fear the worst too because
fearing the best is a complete waste of time.”) as well as some of the dumbest,
corniest krill-based puns (“I’m one in a krillion!”) ever uttered. Though they appear to matter little to
the tale and seem to be on hand merely to provide comic relief much as Scrat in
Ice Age does, ultimately their
intervention is crucial, cementing Miller’s theme of community.

The songs are jukebox sing-along fare with a particular
highlight being the opening medley of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and Justin Trousersnake’s SexyBack, adapted into something more child and penguin friendly as
a troop of fluffy penguin chicks sing “I’m bringing fluffy back,” while
regiments of Emperor penguins dance their flippers off, the hesitant Erik an
oasis of stillness while the employment of Queen and David Bowie’s Under Pressure leads to a soaring,
chest-swelling climax.

Funny, intelligent and heartwarming, Happy Feet Two is the
kids film to beat this Christmas.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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