FILM REVIEW: Happy Feet (U)

Five years after the original Happy Feet danced into the affections of audiences worldwide and won the Oscar as Best Animated Feature, director George Miller returns to the frozen wilderness for this pointless sequel.

Wednesday, 30th November 2011, 5:00 pm

Opening with a mash-up of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” and brother Michael’s catchy “Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)”, Happy Feet Two is punctuated by a series of musical numbers culminating in a rousing rendition of “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie.

While the soundtrack to Miller’s film hits the high notes, the script is frequently off-key, heavy-handedly dealing with issues of parenting and friendship then ladling on the sickly sentiment.

The ecological subtext about the irrevocable damage of global warming and mankind’s responsibility to act now comes through lucid and clear.

Alas, the plot is so flimsy, you fear a blast of the ferocious Antarctic winds might blow the entire film off the big screen.

Mumble the penguin (Elijah Wood), who learned to dance in the first film, has raised a son called Erik (Ava Acres) with his wife Gloria (Pink).

Like his father, Erik is struggling to find his rhythm in Emperor-Land and he searches for answers with best friends Boadicia and Atticus in the company of wise-cracking Ramon (Robin Williams).

Mumble chases after the little ones and returns home to discover a giant iceberg has slammed into their home, trapping all of the Emperor penguins to certain doom.

Noah The Elder (Hugo Weaving) attempts to keep calm with the help of trusted penguins like Seymour (Common) but the situation is dire.

With time running out, Mumble compels Ramon to marshal the Adelie penguins to help with the rescue effort.

An elephant seal called Bryan (Richard Carter) also provides support.

Meanwhile, a flying penguin called The Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria) inspires little Erik to follow his dreams, Ramon pursues the sultry Carmen (Sofia Vergara), and two krill called Will (Brad Pitt) and Bill (Matt Damon) escape from the swarm to view underwater life from a new perspective.

Happy Feet Two trades heavily on the charm of the original film, hoping that our affection for Mumble and his feathered friends will blind us to the chasms in the script.

Regrettably, not even the 3D format or Williams’s verbal gymnastics can conceal those flaws and Miller’s film coasts along gently, clumsily bringing together all of the characters for the grandstand finale.

Pitt and Damon provide flecks of comic relief, the latter warbling Wham! and Rick Astley.

A couple of moments between Mumble and Erik tug the heartstrings but the emotional manipulation is shameless.

Happy Feet Two is preceded by a musical, computer-animated short, I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat, which establishes the rivalry between Tweety and Sylvester.

That’s all folks, hopefully for good where the Happy Feet saga is concerned.

By Hugo Smith


Released: December 2 (UK & Ireland), 103 min