What fresh hell is this? And from the director of The Road Warrior?! Happy Feet Two is not really a movie at all, but a poorly concocted cash grab full of random cutesy images, grating characters and pop songs. George Miller was one of three directors on dancing-penguin hit Happy Feet, but takes the reins solo for Happy Feet Two. I guess that means he can take all of the blame. Happy Feet Two has no cohesive story to speak of, and instead assaults the viewer with scene after pointless scene of rapping baby penguins, poop geysers and cloying single servings of virtue. Happy Feet Two is a mess, folks.
Mumble (Elijah Wood) returns as the lead penguin, and is now married to Gloria (P!nk). Mumble and Gloria's son, Erik (Ava Acres), is shy and reserved, and the other penguins tease him when he tries to dance. Erik and his buddies leave the colony in search of adventure and run into Ramon (Robin Williams), who simultaneously channels a Rastafarian and a sex addict. Ramon leads the runways to the Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria), who claims to have been saved by humans and enjoys dispensing nuggets of knowledge to the other birds. Mumble eventually catches up to Erik to bring him home, but a large iceberg breaks free from the ice shelf and traps the rest of the Emperor Penguins in a large canyon.
Do not be fooled by my synopsis, Happy Feet Two is less a cohesive story than a string of random occurrences. The dancing, heart song-following penguins were kind of cute in Happy Feet but they quickly grow irritating this go-round. The opening scene provides a medley of Kidz Bop-quality recreations of various pop songs, including LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" and Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack," which is re-written as "bringing fluffy back." It feels like the filmmakers wanted to assault viewers with as much stimuli as possible. Penguins dance, jump, and swim for your attention during the obnoxious medley, which is only the first of many groan-inducing songs.
What is the conflict here? I thought the ice barrier was going to be a short diversion, but it turns out to be the main obstacle for Mumble and company. Instead of developing the characters or creating suspense, the filmmakers are content to pack Happy Feet Two to the gills with life lessons for poor Erik. Mumble sasses a leopard seal before teaching Erik about bullying and accepting others. The Mighty Sven spews some generic nonsense about believing in yourself even when others do not, and Gloria scolds Mumble for being too harsh with Erik. Children can learn a lot from movies, but Happy Feet Two is insulting to even the youngest viewer. These lessons are so trite and their onslaught so pervasive that they completely overwhelm the movie.
Also on the slapdash trail are two krill, Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon). Will and Bill's heavy bromance is temporarily amusing, but the krill have nothing to do with the main story. I assumed they would be integrated in some meaningful way, but I was wrong. Perhaps they were included to add more big voice talent. Happy Feet Two is one of those movies that features so many stars that the voices become distracting. Aside from Wood as Mumble, almost every other voice actor is overly recognizable. From Williams to Azaria and Sofía Vergara, the film is full of recognizable voices. Instead of characters you get these voices, and random celebrities and a nonexistent story do not make a good movie.
By the end of Happy Feet Two I just wanted the commotion to stop. The film flopped hard at the box office, which should send the message that moviegoers are savvier than the studio expected. Animated films like Wall-E and How to Train Your Dragon make paint-by-numbers clunkers like Happy Feet Two obsolete. Happy Feet Two is the worst kind of sequel: one made without heart, common sense or respect for its audience.
Well, the movie is shit, but the 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is a beauty. At least the animation in Happy Feet Two is fairly impressive, and the transfer captures all the beauty of the penguins' frigid environment. Detail and texture are impressive. Colors explode from the screen but never bleed, and black levels are excellent. There are absolutely no digital hiccups like compression artifacts or banding to be found. Digital to Blu-ray transfers are often gorgeous, and Happy Feet Two is one of the best.
All the squawking and singing may make you plug your ears, but the ruckus sounds great on the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Dialogue and the singing are crystal clear, and they are well balanced with the film's score and pop soundtrack. Effects are weighty, and there is quite a bit of surround and LFE action. Range and clarity are strong, and effects and dialogue pans are frequent. French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are also included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Happy Feet Two receives the typical Warner Brothers "combo pack" treatment. The set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and a code to stream an UltraViolet digital copy. The discs come in a Blu-ray eco-case, and the case is wrapped in a gorgeous, holofoil and embossed slipcover. A separate Blu-ray 3D version is also available. The extras are wisely geared toward a younger audience:
- Happy Feet Two Movie App Second Screen (58:11/HD) - Viewers with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch can download an application from the iTunes store that allows them to play games, watch sing-alongs and see behind-the-scenes footage while they watch the film. The games and songs are for young kids, and there are only a couple of interesting pieces about the making of Happy Feet Two. Nevertheless, this is a well designed companion application that syncs seamlessly with the Blu-ray feature.
- Helping Penguins and Pals (11:52/HD) - This piece discusses penguins and their Antarctic habitats, the real-life predators that hunt them and their methods for raising their young.
- How to Draw a Penguin (4:59/HD) - This short piece follows one of the artists as he details how to draw the penguins from the film.
- Running with Boadicea (3:10/HD) - This short piece explores the character's smooth moves.
- The Amazing Voices of Happy Feet Two (4:51/HD) - The actors who voice the characters are the highlight of this piece, which follows them into the recording studio.
- I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat (3:49/HD) - This is an animated Looney Tunes short featuring Tweetie and Sylvester.
- Music - This section includes a look at P!nk's New Song (1:56/HD) and several sing-alongs: "The Mighty Sven" (3:15/HD), "Bridge of Light" (3:24/HD) and "Papa Oom Mow Mow" (1:14/HD).
- A BD-Live Portal concludes the extras.
Happy Feet Two is a mess. Unfunny, unfocused and grating, Happy Feet Two is an inferior sequel hell-bent on assaulting viewers with cute, merchandising-ready images and generic life lessons. The voice actors, including Robin Williams, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, are distracting, and those looking for a cohesive story should move along. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray looks gorgeous and sounds great, but Happy Feet Two is terrible. Skip It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.