out of Five
Running time: 100
Enjoyable sequel with colourful characters, some terrific song choices, strong vocal performances and an inspired and hilarious sub-plot, but it's slightly let down by a weak central story.
What's it all about?
Directed by George Miller, Happy Feet Two is the sequel to the 2006 animated hit and stars Elijah Wood as toe-tapping Mumble the penguin, whose son Erik (Ava Acres) runs away because he's unable to dance and can't join in with the other penguins. Mumble follows Erik to a different colony where they re-encounter Lovelace (Robin Williams) the guru and find his entire flock enthralled by “flying penguin” (actually a puffin) Sven (Hank Azaria).
However, while they're away, an ice-shelf collapse traps their colony in an isolated valley and Mumbles and Erik have to work out how to both feed and free their friends and family before it's too late. Meanwhile, in an inspired sub-plot, a pair of curious krill (Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as Will and Bill) embark on an existential adventure when they separate from their school and strike out on their own.
The vocal performances are excellent: Williams is on fine comic form as both Lovelace and Mumble's best friend Ramon, while Azaria is superb as Norwegian Sven and there's strong work from both Wood and Acres as Mumble and Erik. However, the supporting honours are completely and unexpectedly stolen by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, who are both hilarious and delightful as Will and Bill the krill (their scenes are both beautifully animated and a riot of very clever word-play and jokes about existentialism and free will).
As well as its colourful cast of characters (alongside penguins and krill there are some villainous skua birds and some grumpy sea elephants), the film's main assets are the gorgeous animation and an eclectic mix of song choices, ranging from original numbers (one sung by Pink, in particular) to Queen classics (We Are The Champions and Under Pressure) to a brilliantly conceived and genuinely moving burst of opera and, rather delightfully, the Rawhide theme. There are also a couple of exciting set pieces, but nothing quite on the level of the similar sequences in the first film.
The main problem with the film is that the central plot is extremely weak and requires the majority of the story to take place in one location. Similarly, some of the character work feels under-developed, especially in the case of Sven and the penguin sequences aren't nearly as funny, as inventive or as well written as the krill scenes.
Plot issues aside, Happy Feet Two is an enjoyable and entertaining sequel enlivened by colourful characters, gorgeous animation and some catchy musical numbers. Worth seeing.