By Rana Eser, HUB Correspondent–
Dancing penguins have hit the big screen again, but can a second movie step up to the first? Sadly, it can’t, even though you can tell how hard the producers were trying. Watching “Happy Feet Two” felt like penguins shoving regurgitated fish down your throat, except the regurgitated fish were, in this case, overused plot lines and moral lessons.
Watching it seemed as if director George Miller had said “let’s see how many sub-plots we can fit in here while giving people eco- friendly messages at the same time.”
At least the penguins were cute.
The movie starts out with the well-known clan of Emperor Penguins singing and dancing in with choreography that resembled the opening of the 2008 Olympics. This time around, there is a feeling of attachment to the characters, having seen the young ones grow up and Mumble (Elijah Wood), married to Gloria (Alecia Moore), finally find his place in the music.
We can’t help but nod our heads to the beat, laugh at Mumble’s old friends, and “aww” at those cute baby chicks. But what kind of reaction can the producers expect when we see Mumble’s son Erik (Ava Acres) is in the same exact outcast position as Mumble was? A sigh of this-is-going-to-be-the-same-exact-movie-all-over-again.
The too-scared-to-dance Erik runs away and while Mumble heads out to finds his son, a massive ice-shelf collapse traps the rest of the clan in an enormous gorge. What ensues is less an epic adventure than an extended problem-solving exercise in which Mumble and Erik attempt to free their community.
Other than that, there is also a flying penguin to deal with, a love story of Mumble’s friend Ramon (Robin Williams), a mean elephant seal, some humans on a boat, a unsuspected storm, and a father-son relationship that needs healing. Oh and don’t forget there is also a story of two Krill, Will and Bill (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) tucked in there. That felt more or less like a filler that added another just one more moral.
The annoying side characters do nothing to help the movie. Pixar always masters the art of side character; the perky friends are icing on the cake. “Happy Feet Two” just couldn’t pull it off again, and the once-entertaining side-characters now seemed almost annoying. Ramon, who used to be funny and charming, just struts around trying to attract “the ladies.” Lovelace, who used to be an outgoing guru, just yells throughout the whole movie.
However, aside from being way too jam-packed, the movie was more or less entertaining. And cute. They always get that right. But it’s pretty hard to mess that up when you’re working with baby penguins.
One thing you can’t criticize about the movie though, is the imagery. Dr. D Studios saves the movie with amazing animated scenery. Once again, Miller and his crew prowl these spectacular, endlessly varied landscapes with an extraordinary eye for detail, the swooping camera and fluid cutting combining to produce thrilling shifts in scale and perspective.
Overall, what “Happy Feet Two” needs more of is silence, a sense of serenity that would allow the viewer to contemplate the majestic beauty of this frozen world and the horror of its potential extinction.