Andy Bockelman: ‘Happy Feet’ sequel still dancing up a storm

photo

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“Happy Feet Two”

2.5 out of 4 stars

117 minutes

Starring the voices of: Elijah Wood, Alecia Moore, Robin Williams and Brad Pitt.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Carmike Chief Plaza 4 in Steamboat Springs.

If every ballet recital or musical came to a screeching halt because its youngest troupe member did a face-plant and peed themselves out of embarrassment, we’d probably have a lot less opportunities to take in the arts.

Fortunately, when such a thing occurs in “Happy Feet Two,” it’s only the beginning of a bigger story.

Emperor penguins Mumble and Gloria (voices of Elijah Wood, Alecia Moore) have long since found their place in the dancing, singing landscape of their part of Antarctica. Their son, Erik (Ava Acres), isn’t so lucky, feeling ostracized from his more melody-inclined brethren, so much so that he runs away from home.

He believes he’s found his new role model in Sven (Hank Azaria), a northerner who’s already won over the Adélie penguins on the other side of the landmass with something they’ve never seen — a penguin who can fly.

Mumble can’t quite put his flipper on it, but he knows there’s something odd about his son’s new hero.

But, that’s the least of the family’s concerns when a giant iceberg collides with their region, trapping Gloria and the rest of the Emperor population in their valley, leaving Mumble and Erik to save them.

There’s a notable difference between Wood’s vocal tone here and in the original feature, as Mumble’s newfound parenthood gives him a boost of pride and strength in how he speaks. Still, like every dad, he finds communicating with his son difficult, somehow accidentally turning every motivational moment about his boy finding his way into an insult.

But, when he’s speaking through tap-dancing, it would seem that language is universal.

Moore, otherwise known as pop singer P!nk, puts aside her punky persona stepping in for the late Brittany Murphy as warmhearted mother Gloria, who’s more of a chanteuse than a dancer.

Returning in two of his better roles as of late is Robin Williams as Mumble’s diminutive friend Ramon, an Adélie whose attention is devoted to an uninterested female (Sofia Vergara), and Lovelace, the practically spherical Macaroni penguin who serves as the booming mouthpiece for the sensibilities of penguin-kind after his many travels, whereupon he met the South Pole’s newest resident.

You’d almost expect to hear “yumpin’ yiminy” as Azaria goes full bore providing a thick Scandinavian accent for Sven, who soars as a self-help guru telling penguins all they have to do to get what they want is envision it, all the while conveniently keeping the secret that he’s actually a puffin.

As long as we’re talking about other species, the smallest members of the ensemble steal the show with two voice actors you really wouldn’t expect. Plumbing below the glacial waters, we meet Will the krill (Brad Pitt), a teeny crustacean who seeks to break away from the swarm of his relatives and move up the food chain, a concept that terrifies his companion, Bill (Matt Damon), but as Will points out, he’s destined for greatness.

In fact, he’s one in a krillion.

Hearing two of Hollywood’s biggest hunks voice bug-eyed fodder for larger marine animals is just one of the audible benefits of this sequel, which places more importance on fun than the heavy-headed morals of its predecessor.

It’s hardly a surprise to find out halfway through when the movie is prefaced by a 3-D-oriented revamp of the classic “Looney Tunes” short, “I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat.”

Make no mistake, Warner Bros. still knows how to package the films it distributes, in this case from Australian studio Village Roadshow Pictures and director George Miller, who also handled the first film. The animation is no less dazzling and layered in this follow-up, even if the plot isn’t.

Does it really make sense in terms of conflict to have a protagonist whose son he understands perfectly as a fellow late bloomer and yet, he still can’t impart any wisdom?

The fact that Erik has inherited his father’s blue eyes and scruffy, fluffy feathers with a bow tie design on his chest is especially confusing.

Is the writing team trying to say Mumble and son have some kind of bond in the way they look, or are they saying the two identical outsiders have no uniqueness among the sea of black and white that surrounds them?

But, even if this quandary drives you crazy, at least the offbeat musical elements will distract you from the story details, with snippets of Queen tunes prominent, as well as P!nk’s wonderful showstopper, “Bridge of Light,” almost certain to snag a Best Song nomination come Oscar time.

As is the case with many sophomore entries in a series, “Happy Feet Two” isn’t as innovative as the movie that charmed us five years ago. Then again, it’s still the best movie of the year centered on the flightless birds.

Did the stars of “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” suddenly break out into an operatic aria? I don’t think so…

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Carmike Chief Plaza 4 in Steamboat Springs.

Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.