Often enough, computer animated (family) films get less than favorable reviews by 'professional' critics. Most of the time their thoughts can be summarized as - The plot was too basic and predictable, the characters were nothing but mere stereotypes, and the film does little to differentiate itself amongst typical family fare. Not that they're wrong in that assessment, but these are the reviewers that tend to judge every movie they see with the same generic scorecard, and that's an absurd and narrow minded way to view film. Think about it - Why would any reviewer worth their salt hold Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs to the same standard as Inception? Because they've forgotten that not all movies are created equally... and that it's OK if they're not. They don't remember what it's like to just sit down and be entertained for an hour and a half. So what if a film only sets out to entertain us with a bunch of silly characters in a fun and adventurous setting? If that's the sole intent of any given film and it succeeds in doing so, I'm a happy guy. No, the only time I really take issue with a generic family flick is when a film pretends to be something that it's not, such as 2006's Happy Feet did. That movie started out as a fun and coherent story - There was music, dancing, and an inspiring plot about a little penguin that had to overcome adversity. However, that was all thrown away in the final act, drastically shifting the focus of the film to that of global warming instead. The 'critics' got a little teary eyed and somehow felt this made the film deserving of various 'animated feature of the year' awards, despite the fact the ending felt tacked on and unnecessarily bloated the film's runtime. Still though, the positives outweighed the negatives and Happy Feet was still an average, enjoyable feature film the entire family could enjoy, so I knew I couldn't pass up an opportunity to review Happy Feet Two. Unsurprisingly, the sequel had been panned by critics everywhere, but as you all know by now, their opinions matter little to me. Now that I've actually seen it for myself though, I'm stunned - For once, I actually don't find myself at odds with the critics.
Now I could do what I normally do at this point of the review and give you a full plot synopsis, but this film is so horrendously convoluted that it's really not worth the time or effort, not in my writing, nor in you reading. You're probably asking yourself, "Is it really that bad?" Well, let me put it this way - In 2010, there was a film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival called Rubber, and it was about a tire (yes, a tire) that kills people with psychic powers. Before you even have time enough to ask why someone would make a film about a tire that goes on a murderous rampage, the film answers that question in its opening scene, making it blatantly clear that it was done for 'no reason' at all. From beginning to end, Rubber stood firm by its message and offered no apology for braving such an approach to filmmaking. If you've never seen that odd, yet intriguing little flick, you might assume the filmmaker was merely trying to have a good laugh at the expense of his audience, but that couldn't be further from the truth. What the filmmaker did intend, was to make a movie that fully embraced a 'no reason' philosophy, and it was the ultimate film in doing so... until now. Happy Feet Two is every bit as pointless a film as Rubber, but the elephant in the room, of course, is that Happy Feet Two wasn't trying to be a fruitless endeavor.
The reason why I'm comparing this film to the likes of Rubber, is that everything about Happy Feet Two screams that there was 'no reason' for it to be made. I mean, this film has four writers credited, yet this movie has absolutely no idea what story it's trying to tell. Overcoming adversity was a big theme in the first Happy Feet, so for some reason the writers felt it necessary to arbitrarily throw it into the sequel... just because. Another plot thread that comes back bigger (yet certainly not better) than ever is that of global warming, and the message is loud and clear throughout a majority of the film's runtime. If you haven't been exposed to enough guilt-trip laden preach just yet, don't worry, because the film also gives us the business about why we shouldn't worship false idols just because they can impress us with crafty words and a handful of tricks. Last but not least, the film really wants to push the idea of karma onto us - Be nice to everyone you meet, because what goes around (hopefully) comes around. These idealistic concepts probably could have worked together in unison if a talented enough team of writers were at the helm, but instead, thanks to a script that features high-school caliber writing at best, each theme feels like it's trying to break away and be its own film.
Could Happy Feet Two be any more of a disjointed experience than it already is? Oh, wait. Yes. Yes it can. On a pretty regular basis, the film cuts away from all the main characters to focus on two insignificant krill. Why? You guessed it - No reason. My best guess is that the studio wanted the creative team to come up with a side story featuring a couple of new characters that the kids would find adorable and hilarious. I imagine the phone call between Warner Bros. and Director George Miller went a little something like this:
WB: Hey, George! We've been discussing a neat little idea with marketing, and they think it would be just super if you could come up with some sort of funny cartoon that breaks up the film every so often!
George: Well, I don't know. What exactly did you have in mind?
WB: You know how those Ice Age films have that little squirrel that shows up from time to time and has the kids laughing so hard they pee their pants on the spot? I want something like that! I want a character that... no, make it TWO characters! Give me two characters that we can follow on the side while they have their own little adventure!
It's a cute idea... kind of... I guess... but the krill aren't funny or interesting, and just like the rest of the thematic smorgasbord that make up a fair chunk of the film, they just seem like yet another idea that was never fully realized. This is a problem that plagues the entirety of the film - There's so much going on yet nothing actually happens. The eyes of the writers were bigger than their stomachs, so they pulled out a bunch of concepts out of the fridge without much thought, and those ideas never had a chance to do something natural and thaw into a product that the audience could actually bite in to. Furthermore, the singing and dancing, which was really the main star of the Happy Feet franchise in the first place, is hanging in there but has been forced to take a back seat to the confusing mess that permeates the rest of the feature. Last but not least, the scripted dialogue is terrible - I love Robin Williams and Elijah Wood, but I hated the characters they played this time around because of how they were written. Some of you might disagree with me on this, but I think it takes a severely talentless group of people to make the highly energetic Robin Williams as uninteresting as he is in this film.
Did I mention that live action humans show up to save the day by playing electric guitar with an amp from their ship? Why? You're such a smart little ole' lunch crowd, you guessed it again - No reason!
So, yeah. I have to side with the critics this time - Money. That's the only reason why this film was ever made. As far as why it's such a confusing mess from start to finish, well, that all boils down to the team of writers that lack any sort of restraint or discipline. This truly is the worst film I've seen in some time. While I was sitting on the couch, I was looking at my watch every few minutes wondering how much longer I had to sit there and endure this bloated train wreck. Anyway, if there's a single saving grace to this picture, it's that your kids are probably going to overlook the film's multiple personalities and love it anyway. As a parent myself though, take my advice - Leave this film on the shelf at your local retailer. You really don't want this 105 minute disaster to be the one film your kid wants you to watch with them over and over again. Trust me.
Although Happy Feet Two is a disastrous film in epic proportions, at least it can be said that Warner's 1080p, AVC encoded transfer (2.35:1) is sheer brilliance. Detail is immaculate, contrast and black levels are flawless, color saturation is as impressive as it gets, and there's no digital anomalies to hinder the picture - No edge enhancement, no banding, no stair stepping, and absolutely no compression artifacts. As far as computer animated films are concerned, this is about as good as it gets. If you're a person that could care less about the substance of a film and can get by with mere eye candy alone, then you're going to walk away satisfied.
Warner tops off the A/V presentation on this disc with a flawless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The music bumps and jumps with impressive LFE that's never overstated, sound effects are appropriately placed throughout the surround stage with pinpoint precision and accurate depth, and the dialogue is always easy to understand. As I said in the body of my review for the film itself, there's a lot that goes on throughout the film, and although it might not amount to much contextually, it certainly gives all of your speakers at home a full workout. I was expecting some nice involvement from the rears, but the way they've been implemented in scenes outside of the musical numbers was nothing short of stellar. The attention to detail on the mix is amazing, and if you decide to give this movie a spin at home, you better crank that volume knob and listen to it loud and proud! You won't be disappointed.
-Happy Feet Two Movie App - Second Screen - This allows you to download an app on your ipod touch or ipad, and view additional content while you watch the film. This is becoming a little more commonplace in the Blu-ray market today, but I've never been a fan of its implementation. It's always nice to have more content available for you when you want it, but I don't really want to sit on the couch and have to micro-manage other devices while I'm watching a movie. Perhaps I'm just old school, but I feel like a movie screening should be a more relaxing experience than that, especially at home.
-Behind the Story - There's four featurettes featured here, culminating to about 25 minutes worth of 'making of' bonus material. The content throughout is geared towards kids though, so instead of having useful behind-the-scenes information on display, these featurettes act as gimmick to draw the kids in above all else. Pass.
-Music - This section of the disc provides four musical selections, three of which are sing-along's for the kids at home, whereas the fourth provides us with a peek at P!nk's New Song.
-I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat - This is a CGI animated short featuring the ever beloved Tweetie, as well as his archenemy, Sylvester. I was really skeptical as to how they would be able to pull off a Looney Tunes short with anything other than classic hand-drawn animation, but Warner has really left me clamoring for more!
Also included is a DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film.
I'm all for mindless family fun, but this is ridiculous. This is a severely disjointed film that suffered from a staff of writers that had no sense of restraint while trying to tell a story. As a result, four major themes are vying for the spotlight throughout the entirety of the film, and not a single one of them come out on top after all is said and done. The lack of creativity in this film just blows my mind - I could probably get more creative at home by mashing a medley of mixed vegetables into my mashed potatoes with a rolling pin. If you were a fan of the original Happy Feet such as I was, consider this your official warning - Stay as far away from this film as possible. Skip it at ALL costs. If you get suckered in to watching it with your kids though, take solace in the fact that the A/V presentation is first class every step of the way. Other than that, this ranks up there as one of the most forgettable films I'll ever have the displeasure of seeing.